RI legislature passes Handy and Lynch’s wetlands standards legislation

The Rhode Island General Assembly today passed legislation by Sen. Erin P. Lynch and Rep. Arthur Handy to establish state standards for freshwater buffers and setbacks within Rhode Island’s wetlands

The legislation (2015-H 5962 <http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H596 2A.pdf> / 2015-S 0737A <http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S07 37A.pdf> ) will streamline permitting processes and address gaps in wetland protections. The bill requires the establishment of a single set of state standards for freshwater wetland buffers and setbacks.
The new requirements will be specified through state agency rulemaking. The legislation also strengthens wetland protections by increasing the authority of state agencies through the designation of jurisdictional areas around protected wetlands. It also requires the sharing of information by state agencies with municipalities and other entities and provides an opportunity for input from municipalities.
«Environmentalists and businesses have been calling for uniform standards for years and I am happy to report that such standards now exist,» said Rep. Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) who is Chairman of the House Environment & Natural Resources Committee. «To preserve public health, through the protection of drinking water, quality of life and making life easier for our businesses is a win-win and a legislative victory for all Rhode Islanders.» «These standards are good for residents, they are good for businesses and they are good for the environment,» said Sen. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston). «The task force that was formed two years ago delivered excellent recommendations on how Rhode Island can streamline to be efficient for our businesses and residents while also protecting our natural resources within the state.» The standards will be promulgated by the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council. The legislation resulted from a 2013 statute which established a task force to form a uniform set of standards for all residents and businesses of the state. «This is an action by the legislature that creates opportunity for better business development and better water quality across the state. There is still work to be done but with all of the broad support this legislation has seen, this is a major victory for all of Rhode Island,» said Gary Ezovski, Chairman of the Regulations Subcommittee at the Annual Small Business Summit. The legislation was strongly supported by the Small Business Administration, the Rhode Island Builders Association, Save the Bay and the Audubon Society. The legislation now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature.

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