Environmental Shame Only Foisted Upon Powerless Individuals

Editor’s note: The following is a condensed version of the second story in a three-part series about environmental enforcement in Rhode Island. To read the full story, click here.

By ecoRI News staff

The failure of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to publish its annual compliance and enforcement report between 2013 and 2017 was just a symbol of the agency’s broader retreat from transparency under the Raimondo administration, according to some environmental groups.

It is, however, unclear whether this is simply an effort by the state to present itself as being more business friendly, or is an outcome of the severe DEM staff cuts that have occurred in recent years.

The annual enforcement report was once recognized as important both because of the clear picture it provided of the status of environmental protections in the state and as a way to shame businesses that don’t comply with those regulations.

The most recent report, the 2017 “Summary of Compliance Assistance, Emergency Responses & Enforcement Activities,” was, at 24 pages, 42 pages shorter than the 2013 report, less detailed in its reporting, and replete with marketing-like copy, owing, perhaps to the role the governor’s office had in revising it.

Environmental organizations remain concerned that without public awareness of severe environmental problems, such as Rhode Island Recycled Metals’ on-going battles to protect itself from basic environmental regulations, these problems will only get worse, citing the fact that while the 2013 report listed 181 businesses involved in compliance or enforcement activities, only four were listed in 2017.