RIDEM enforcement cases deemed public record

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 kbeaver@savebay.org.

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.