Push to Deregulate Targets DEM and CRMC

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Republicans in the General Assembly are making good on their promise to restructure environmental regulations. On Wednesday, Rep. Michael Chippendale, R-Foster, submitted a bill that prevents cities and towns from enacting state rules that are more restrictive than local ordinances. The rules, however, only apply to those issued by the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

“It’s just another piece of legislation to reduce the over regulation that exists in the state,” Chippendale said shortly before the bill was introduced Jan. 30.

Several zoning regulations stifle real-estate development in rural areas, he said. Chippendale also said he knows from his experience as a real-estate investor that it can be a “challenge” to interpret DEM’s rules. “I don’t think it’s healthy for business,” he said.

The bill moves to the House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources for a hearing(pdf) on Feb. 7. Chippendale serves on the committee and said last week that the current legislative session would focus on paring back environmental rules. His bill, he said, is one several priority bills supported by Republican House members.

The legislation could the first of many to eliminate state rules and regulations, according to Chippendale. The movement to deregulate stems from a law (pdf) enacted last year that requires an analysis of all state agency rules within four years. An annual report of all findings and recommendation for rule changes will be published by the end of June annually.

A DEM spokesman said the agency expects to issue a response — approved by the governor’s office — to the legislation in several weeks.