Updated March 25 at 12:28am

Environmental agencies pulled from commerce plan


PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island House Democrats have backed off a plan to move business permitting functions of two state environmental agencies under the authority of a proposed state commerce office.

The new Executive Office of Commerce would “coordinate” instead of “operate” the business permitting functions of the Department of Environmental Management and Coastal Resource Management Council under a revised bill passed by the House Finance Committee Wednesday.

Creation of a new state commerce office focused on economic policy is a central piece of House Speaker Gordon D. Fox’s plan for improving Rhode Island’s business climate.

But the plan to place permitting functions of the two environmental agencies under control of the new office met resistance from environmental groups and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee.

The revised bill, sponsored by Rep. Helio Melo, a democrat from East Providence, would still give it authority over business permitting functions of the Department of Business Regulation, Department of Labor and Training and Department of Administration. It now moves to the full House for vote.


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