Awarding justice

Laura Miguel, left, with Arlene Violet after accepting the award. 

SOUTH KINGSTOWN—After nearly two decades on the job, Laura Miguel still approaches her work on the enforcement team at the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) with the same passion as she did day one. She said it’s the stunning Rhode Island shoreline that’s helped her to maintain that level of enthusiasm all these years. 

“It’s looking at the beautiful ocean and beaches and shore that Rhode Island has,” Miguel said. “We’re blessed—that’s what motivates me.”

And it’s that tireless dedication to her work that earned Miguel the Attorney General Arlene Violet Justice Award for Environmental Protection.

Miguel, who holds two master’s degrees from the University of Rhode Island, has worked for the CRMC for 25 years, beginning her career within the organization as a marine resource specialist. She was appointed in 1999 to the enforcement team and currently serves as the supervisor of the two-person team responsible for ensuring CRMC regulation compliance. Miguel handles complaints related to permit violations—she and her colleague typically receive between 150 and 200 complaints per year—including prohibited vegetation clearing, illegal debris-dumping and issues arising during construction. 

Miguel described the manner in which she approaches her job as “using honey instead of vinegar.”

“In most cases you get a lot further if you work with people,” she said.

While her top goal is to protect the Ocean State’s natural resources, Miguel said her secondary goal is to move violations toward compliance. 

“There’s no point in dwelling on the situation we’re in now,” she said. “We’ve got to fix this.”

Nearly 20 years into her enforcement role, Miguel said the complaints she receives have remained fairly consistent. She does, however, pay more visits than ever before to aquaculture sites, although rarely issues violations there.   

Miguel added that the evolution over the last couple decades of the internet and the introduction of several useful online tools have helped streamline some of the more tedious duties of her job. In particular, Google Earth means Miguel and her colleagues no longer have to rely on aerial photographs to investigate complaints. 

Miguel was honored last week at the 13th annual Justice Awards ceremony. The awards are given annually to recognize each recipient’s outstanding commitment to justice and are presented in honor of the eight previous Attorneys General: Arlene Violet, Richard Israel, Herbert DeSimone, Dennis Roberts, James O'Neil, Jeffrey Pine, Sheldon Whitehouse and Patrick Lynch.

“Being a CRMC enforcement officer requires skills of negotiation, patience, fairness, a firm and complete grasp of Rhode Island’s regulations, and a fearless ambition to enforce them to the fullest extent,” said Violet as she presented the award to Miguel. “Laura has made it her vigilant duty to see that the state’s coastline is protected, and we have all benefitted from her dedication and commitment.”

Despite her unwavering dedication to justice, Miguel said she was surprised yet honored to receive the recognition.

Miguel said she appreciates Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s and Assistant Attorney General Michael Rubin’s support of public access. She also thanked Grover Fugate, executive director of the CRMC, for nominating her for the award.  

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