Victory Rhode Island School Siting Law Passed
As you know CHEJ and our network partners have been working on school siting for many years. USEPA finally passed their school siting guidelines in October 2011. Rhode Island is the first state to pass a law that reflects those protective school siting guidelines. Steve Fischbach and the local environmental justice communities that have been fighting for a decade– deserve a huge thank you for all their work to make this possible. Below are the details.
On June 6th, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law the school siting legislation that has been working on for at least 3 years. This new law is probably the strongest law in the nation when it comes to addressing the problem of the siting of schools on contaminated sites. You can download the new law at: http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText12/SenateText12/S2277Aaa.pdf
1. Bans the construction of schools (including expanding an existing building and leasing of buildings for school purposes) on “any portion of a parcel of property for which, upon occupancy, there exists an ongoing potential for hazardous materials and/or petroleum to migrate as vapors or gases into the building from the subsurface of the parcel of property, including any potential failure of engineered remedies to address said vapors or gases.”
2. Bans the construction of schools (as explained above) on any portion of a parcel of property formerly used for industrial, manufacturing or landfill purposes that is contaminated by hazardous materials (other than an vapor intrusion site) unless the sponsor of the school project prepares a report for public comment that a.) outlines the projected cost of acquiring and cleaning up and monitoring the site in accordance with RI’s Contaminated Site Regulations, b.) projects the time required to clean up the site and c.) discusses the rationale for selecting a contaminated property for use as school purposes and an explains any alternatives to selecting said property considered by the project sponsor. This report must be put out for public comment, the project sponsor must respond to public comments, and the sponsor must consider the findings of the report when making a final selection of a site.
There are so many people to thank for this historic development, including the lead sponsors of the legislation: Senator Juan Pichardo (who way back in the day spoke out against using the Providence City Dump as a site for the schools that were the subject of the lawsuit filed back 1999) and Representative Tom Slater (whose district includes the school built on a vapor intrusion site); Nicole Poepping, the state environmental agency’s (DEM) legislative liaison and former board member of the EJ League of RI; and the members of the EJ Stakeholder Group set up by DEM as a result of that lawsuit, who worked to draft the bill.