RIDEM enforcement cases deemed public record
by Kendra Beaver, staff attorney
Enforcement of environmental law is critical to the health of Narragansett Bay, and the public has a right to know whether or not these laws are being enforced—but, without access to information about enforcement, we are left in the dark. That is why Save The Bay is so pleased to have finally obtained a list of Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management enforcement cases after a years-long effort.
In 2015, Save The Bay asked the RIDEM for the list of enforcement cases awaiting action in R.I. Superior Court. The RIDEM refused to provide the list, claiming that the list was not a public record. Save The Bay appealed the denial to then-Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who concluded that the list was not public.
Undeterred, we filed another request in 2019 for that same list, along with other enforcement-related documents. When the RIDEM again denied the request, Save The Bay filed a complaint with current Attorney General Peter Neronha. This time, shortly after we filed the complaint, RIDEM provided us with a copy of the list.
Based on the decision released by the Attorney General’s office on September 2, 2020, it appears that such lists will not be kept from the public in the future. This is good news for all of us, as it supports our right to know whether, and how, environmental laws are being enforced. Transparency matters.
Questions? You can reach Save The Bay Staff Attorney Kendra Beaver at firstname.lastname@example.org.