This letter’s objective is to inform the public about Rhode Island’s “zombie” environmental protection laws. For example, a strip-mining business started operating in Westerly’s forested wetlands in 2010. The strip-mining businesses and the landowner have been cited for air pollution, water pollution, a solid waste violation, altering a wetland and for filling in the wetland.
Recently, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management levied a financial penalty on the landowner and two mining operators in the amount of $7,500. According to the department’s “consent agreement,” the $7,500 penalty will be split among the three violators. Thus, the landowner and two mining operators will be penalized $2,500 each for five wetland violations. That means each wetland violation will cost them $500. And if they don’t comply with the department settlement, they CAN be fined another $500 a month!
Without a doubt, this is what any reasonable person would call a “brain-dead” approach to protecting Rhode Island’s wetlands. But let’s not be distracted by the symptom. The root cause of Rhode Island’s “zombie” environmental protection is simply Rhode Island’s notorious crony capitalism, which powers the self-serving interests of developers and Rhode Island officials. The only thing different this time is that Rhode Island’s corruption is allowing developers to cost-effectively decimate the state’s precious forested wetlands.