Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs went live with two new web sites intended to increase the public availability of information concerning regulated entities in Massachusetts. The first, ePLACE, will provide information about on-line permit applications. However, since MassDEP began accepting on-line applications on May 5, 2017, ePLACE is going to be of much more interest in the future than it is today. As of now, there is not much there.
The more interesting site is the Data Portal, which lists permits, inspections, and enforcement actions with respect to any facility in Massachusetts. The site does not provide many specifics, but it does list every existing permit and enforcement action against each facility in Massachusetts.
Even without a lot of detail, the Data Portal is potentially a treasure trove for activists and interest groups. It’s somewhat similar to the Obama EPA Next Generation Compliance program, in terms of increasing transparency and encouraging citizen enforcement. EEA certainly is never going to say explicitly that environmental budgets are lean and it thus wants to facilitate citizen enforcement to backstop reduced governmental enforcement resources, but we can all draw our own conclusions.
Citizens, go forth and sue!
Regulated community, check the Data Portal regularly. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!