Category Archives: Massachusetts DEP

EOEEA Releases Draft Ocean Management Plan Update: Now with Fees

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) recently released for public review and comment a draft update to the Ocean Management Plan for the Commonwealth. The Oceans Act, signed by Governor Patrick in 2008, required the Secretary of EOEEA to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan to be reviewed every five years. The first plan was released in 2009, and the recently released update is a result of this five year review. The plan addresses the areas of habitat, fisheries, sediment resources, recreational and cultural services, transportation and navigation, and… More

CERCLA Preempts Local Cleanup Bylaws; PRPs Everywhere Breath a Sigh of Relief

In an important decision yesterday, Judge Douglas Woodlock of the District of Massachusetts confirmed that CERCLA preempts local cleanup bylaws. The case involved one aspect of the cleanup of the W.R. Grace Superfund Site in Acton, Massachusetts. In 2005, EPA issued a Record of Decision requiring operation of a groundwater pump and treat system in what is known as the Northeast Area of the Site. However, EPA recognized that the contamination in the area was limited and stated in the ROD that the treatment system might be turned off in three years if certain criteria were met. After three… More

I Thought Redeveloping Brownfields Was a Good Idea: Apparently the Boston Globe Hasn’t Gotten the Message

In an article earlier this week, the Boston Globe reported on concerns that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is planning to weaken cleanup standards for hazardous waste sites in Massachusetts, seemingly in response to pressure from developers.  The article is so wrong and the concerns are so misplaced that some response is necessary.

First, we expect MassDEP to regulate in the face of uncertainty.  That means that MassDEP must set cleanup standards without perfect knowledge.  As a result, most people – and certainly the environmentalists complaining about the regulatory changes – would expect MassDEP to err on the… More

RGGI: the Hot New Investment Tip?

In last week’s auction held by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), not only did the allowances sell at $3 — the highest clearing price in four years, other than the June auction’s $3.21 — but a majority of the allowances sold to investors, rather than the large generators of electricity whose carbon dioxide emissions are regulated under RGGI.  Fifty-seven percent of the allowances were bought by commodities firms, traders, and other third parties, marking the first time in RGGI history that an auction garnered such interest and participation from these outside entities. By comparison, 81% of the allowances… More

Standing Matters, TMDL Version

Last week, in Conservation Law Foundation v. EPA, Judge Mark Wolf ruled that CLF did not have standing to challenge EPA’s approval of total maximum daily loads promulgated for certain waters in and around Cape Cod.  Given the increasing number of citizen suits involving TMDL promulgation, the decision is important.

CLF asserted two claims.  First, it alleged that EPA wrongly classified certain sources, including septic systems, storm water systems, and waste water treatment facilities as non-point sources, rather than point sources.  Second, it alleged that the TMDLs failed to take into account the need for additional stringency due to… More

MassDEP Proposes Amendments to CO2 Budget Trading Regs to Implement RGGI Program Changes

On Friday, MassDEP released for public review and comment draft amendments to the CO2 Budget Trading Program regulations.   These amendments are designed to implement the changes to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) agreed to by the RGGI states earlier this year as part of the 2012 Program Review.

As Seth previously discussed, the major change is a new cap that reduces the baseline budget of allowances for 2014 by 45%, with additional 2.5% reductions in the years 2015 through 2020.   The reduction is designed to address the significant excess supply… More

I Believe in Environmental Regulation, But….

As readers of this blog know, I believe in governmental environmental regulation.  We have a complicated world and it is not surprising that many activities, including those generating greenhouse gases, cause negative externalities.  At the same time, however, I have spent more than 25 years representing regulated entities in negotiations with government regulators and it is impossible to do such work without obtaining an appreciation for the very significant costs that bureaucracies impose.

With all due respect – cue the upcoming diss – to my many friends in government, the absence of market discipline or the ability to fire nonpolitical… More

Massachusetts Releases Its Revised Solid Waste Master Plan: Are We Really on a Pathway to Zero Waste?

On Tuesday, MassDEP announced release of its updated Solid Waste Master Plan, subtitled “Pathway to Zero Waste.”  The Plan’s most significant discussion relates to the state of the solid waste market and the Plan’s goal for disposal reduction.  The Plan announces a goal of reducing solid waste disposal by 30% from 2008 to 2020, from 6,550,000 tons to 4,550,000 tons.  However, the Plan acknowledges that, even if that ambitious goal is met, there will still be a shortfall of 700,000 tons in solid waste handling capacity in Massachusetts.

This is where the Plan’s controversial modification of the existing… More

When is a Park not a Park? The SJC Declines to Give Broad Interpretation to Article 97

Earlier this month, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its decision in Mahajan v. DEP, holding that the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) proposed redevelopment of Long Wharf in Boston is not subject to Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution.   Among other things, Article 97 protects park lands from being disposed of or used for other purposes, absent a supermajority vote from both branches of the Legislature.

This was an important win for the BRA, because the SJC reviewed the BRA’s powers of eminent domain, and affirmed that those and other legal tools “enable the BRA to guide private… More

MassDEP Regulatory Reform Release 2.0: Wetlands, Water, and Waterways

In addition to its MCP package, MassDEP has also released its formal regulatory reform proposals for its water, wastewater, wetlands, and waterways programs.  As with the MCP proposal, the water package took longer than it should have, and may not be perfect, but is definitely worth the wait.  MassDEP has provided two separate helpful summaries of the changes, one concerning wastewater issues and the other concerning wetlands, waterways and water quality.

On the wastewater front, the most significant change is the complete elimination of sewer extension/connection permits.  MassDEP has acknowledged that those permits are purely redundant… More

MassDEP Formally Proposes MCP Reforms: It’s About Time? Job Well Done? Definitely Both.

On Friday, MassDEP issued the formal public comment draft of its package of regulatory reforms under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan.  Overall, it’s certainly a good package, which will facilitate getting to an endpoint with reduced transaction costs, but no decrease in environmental protection.  It’s not perfect (and you have until May 17, 2013 to provide comments to help make it more perfect), and it took far too long, but congratulations are still due to MassDEP.

MassDEP’s summary organizes the proposed changes into five broad categories.  Highlights in each area include the following:

Permit, Tier Classification, and Numerical… More

MassDEP Tightens TCE Indoor Air Regulation: The $64,000 Question? What About Closed Sites?

Last week, MassDEP released new guidance on how it is assessing exposures to TCE in light of EPA new assessment of TCE risks released in September 2011.  The biggest issue is that concerns about fetal exposure have caused MassDEP to tighten the imminent hazard threshold for indoor air exposures to 2 ug/m3.  That’s an order of magnitude reduction from the prior standard of 20 ug/m3.

MassDEP has apparently thus far taken the position that it is not planning on reopening closed sites based on the new IH criterion.  However, they are going to be under a lot of pressure… More

MassDEP Begins to Roll Out Its Regulatory Reforms: Good News on the Solid Waste Front

As I’ve previously discussed, MassDEP has been embarked on an effort – prompted by shrinking budgetary resources – to promulgate a package of regulatory reforms.  While the package was announced in March 2012 and updated last October, we only saw the first set of actual proposed regulations last week, when MassDEP announced changes to both its asbestos regulations and its solid waste regulations.  This post will focus on the solid waste package.

On initial review, it’s a good package.  It’s not a panacea, but was never intended as such, and it certainly contains a… More

MassDEP Issues a New Solid Waste Master Plan: A Difficult Road to Achieve Some Ambitious Goals

Late last week, MassDEP announced release of the 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, subtitled “Pathway to Zero Waste.”  James Collins might describe that as a Big Hairy Audacious GoalI have nothing against Big Hairy Audacious Goals, but sometimes they are implemented through Big Hairy Audacious Regulations.  Time will tell if that’s the case here.

The Master Plan goals are to reduce solid waste by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 – not quite zero waste, but more than sufficiently hairy and audacious.  To work… More

MassDEP Issues Final Rules for Anaerobic Digestion Facilities: Let’s Hope They Work

This week, MassDEP announced that it had finalized regulatory revisions intended to encourage anaerobic digestion projects in the Commonwealth. The regulations are the culmination of a long stakeholder process . Since our firm knows from personal experience MassDEP’s ability to tie itself in knots on this issue, there is little doubt that this package was necessary as a practical matter.

Highlights of the regulations include:

An exemption from the site assignment process for anaerobic (and aerobic) digestion operations A general permit for digestion operations receiving no more than 100 tons per day (30 day rolling average) – That’s up from a 60 tpd limit… More

Accidental Success? Even Without National Climate Policy, US Emissions May Fall Enough To Avoid Failure

In 2009, at the international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, President Obama pledged that the US would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Since then, national efforts toward comprehensive climate legislation, or even making concrete strides to intentionally reduce emissions on a national scale have been, let’s say… lackluster. But even so, a recent report by Resources for the Future predicts that the US will hit 16.3% reductions over a 2005 baseline by 2020.  Moreover, because the report is intentionally conservative, and downplays the future impacts of investments in efficiency and other reductions in demand, the 17% goal… More

MassDEP Issues Its Decision on the Palmer Bio-mass Facility: Right on the Merits, Wrong on Standing

I finally had an opportunity to review the recent Final Decision in In the Matter of Palmer Renewable Energy, concerning the proposed Palmer biomass facility. Last week, MassDEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell affirmed the Recommended Final Decision by Presiding Officer Timothy Jones, rejecting challenges by the Conservation Law Foundation to the air permit issued to the project by MassDEP. For practitioners, the case is important, but a decidedly mixed bag.

First, on the issue of broadest importance, I’m sorry to say that MassDEP missed a real opportunity to conform its standing requirements to the actual meaning of Chapter 30A. Instead,… More

Repeat After Me: There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported that MassDEP is considering promulgating new regulations to manage noise from on-shore wind turbines. I sympathize with my friends at MassDEP, who are trying to implement a clean energy agenda and ensure that Massachusetts meets the aggressive carbon reduction targets in the Global Warming Solutions Act. This is no easy task in a home rule state that would have a fighting chance to win any national NIMBY championship competition. 

I hope against hope that the Department can take some action that will not unduly obstruct construction of wind projects, but that will, if not… More

Massachusetts’ Climate Change Efforts: Nation-Leading, But Still Not Good Enough?

Massachusetts was one of the first states to launch an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction program, setting a 2020 goal of cutting emissions 25% from 1990 levels and a 2050 goal of an 80% reduction.  With less than eight years to go before 2020, is the Commonwealth on track to measure up?  According to a report released this week by think tank MassINC and the Clean Energy States Alliance, maybe not.

The report concludes that, although Massachusetts has implemented many effective programs — notably the renewable portfolio standard, energy efficiency programs, and Green Communities program, all of which… More

A Few Small Steps For Regulatory Reform In Massachusetts: MassDEP Releases Its Final Action Plan

paretoYesterday, MassDEP released its Final Action Plan for Regulatory Reform. It pretty consistent with the draft package I summarized last October. There is some good stuff in the package, but it really is baby steps. MassDEP’s own ground rules precluded the adoption of any changes that could not be described as Pareto improvements– If any stakeholder would be made worse off, it just wasn’t going to happen. Thus, MassDEP imposed the following limitations to ensure that the changes would not:

Cost MassDEP money Impose burdens on municipalities Reduce public process Require statutory… More

Is Massachusetts the NIMBY Capital of the World? What Will Be the Impact of the Wind Turbine Health Impact Study?

Yesterday, the “Independent Expert Panel” convened by MassDEP to review whether wind turbines cause any adverse health effects issued its report. I was pleased that the headline in the Boston Globe was that “Wind turbines don’t cause health problems.” Similarly, the Daily Environment Report headline was that “Massachusetts Study Finds ‘No Evidence’ of Health Impacts from Wind Turbines.” 

I hope that that’s the way the report will be read, but I’m worried. Perhaps I just have too many NIMBY-related scars. Whatever the reason, I am worried about the report’s statements that there

is limited epidemiologic evidence suggesting an association between exposure… More

MassDEP Issues Vapor Intrusion Guidance: Don’t Worry; It’s Only Guidance

Last week, MassDEP finally issued its long-awaited vapor intrusion guidance. Including appendices, it is 148 pages. There is a separate 52-page response to comments on the draft guidance. MassDEP has certainly learned that guidance must at least be described as guidance. The disclaimer runs a full page, and includes the following text:

MassDEP generally does not intend the guidance to be overly prescriptive. Use of such words as “shall,” “must,” or “require,” however, indicates that the text is referring to a specific regulatory and/or statutory requirement, rather than a suggested approach and/or optional measure. Use of the words “should” or “recommend” indicates… More

Democracy In Action: Environmental Legislation Edition

What follows is the full text of Bill S.325, introduced in the Massachusetts legislature this term. 

SECTION 1. LIABILITY RELIEF In the event an individual or group of individuals unknowingly purchase contaminated residential land that does not qualify for Brownsfield funding and are not the polluter, they must be relieved of liability and fines in connection with said pollution. The Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) must be proactive in balancing public safety with feasibility. Specifically, where you have residential land that naple is present on part of the land. And, the innocent land owner wants to build over the area… More

MassDEP Issues Its Regulatory Reform Proposal

Earlier this week, the Massachusetts DEP issued a package of regulatory reforms. While the focus of the package was on finding ways for MassDEP to implement its mission with fewer resources, a number of the reforms are specifically targeted at facilitating the development of renewable energy. If you want to see more about that angle, you can take a look at our client alert about the reforms.

On the non-energy side, my personal favorite is MassDEP’s expressed willingness to review the role of its hazard ranking system in the state Superfund, or Chapter 21E, program. Given the way the 21E program… More

Coming Soon to Massachusetts: Adaptation to Climate Change

The abandonment of any discussion of climate change in Washington has not been followed in Massachusetts. Yesterday, Rick Sullivan, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, released the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report, providing the fruits of a lengthy process in Massachusetts to look at the impacts of climate change on five areas: Natural Resources and Habitat; Key Infrastructure; Human Health and Welfare; Local Economy and Government; and Coastal Zone and Oceans.

Certainly, the summary of potential impacts in Massachusetts is not a pretty picture – speaking metaphorically, anyway; many of the pictures in the report actually are pretty cool. For those… More

The Conservation Commission That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

It’s easy enough to complain about EPA; I’ve even been known to do it on occasion. However, in Massachusetts, we have a different problem. We let local municipalities regulate all sorts of matters in which they have no expertise.  We even delegate to municipalities the implementation of our state Wetlands Protection Act. That’s how we end up with cases such as Lippman v. Conservation Commission of Hopkinton. Lippman didn’t make any new law, but it does illustrate what havoc local boards can wreak. 

The Lippmans wanted to build a single family house on land subject to the WPA. They… More

MassDEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell Wants Regulatory Reform: Do the DEP Employees Want It?

New MassDEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell has launched a regulatory reform effort at DEP. As everyone knows, Ken did an outstanding job as EEA General Counsel and I expect he will be an outstanding DEP Commissioner. I hope he succeeds and I fully support the regulatory reform initiative. However, he does have one major problem – his staff, other than his senior staff, doesn’t believe in it. Street level bureaucracy is not an abstract intellectual concept; it’s something the regulated community deals with every day. When the Commissioner starts rolling out reform initiatives, even if they are protective of the environment, will his staff be on… More

The Regulators Still Hold All the Cards: The SJC Affirms DEP’s Regulatory Authority Over Cooling Water Intake Structures

Sometimes I’m so timely I can’t stand it. This morning, I posted about the difficulty in challenging regulations under Massachusetts law. Later this morning, the SJC agreed. In Entergy v. DEP, the SJC upheld DEP’s authority to regulate cooling water intake structures under the state CWA. Funny how the SJC cited to the same language here as did Judge Sweeney in the Pepin case.

We will apply all rational presumptions in favor of the validity of the administration action and not declare it void unless its provisions cannot by any reasonable construction be interpreted in harmony… More

A Twofer: Indoor Air and Guidance v. Regulation

Vapor intrusion is the issue de jour at federal and state Superfund sites. On the federal side, EPA announced in January that it was considering adding vapor intrusion criteria to its calculation of hazard ranking scores. Frankly, as a concept, it’s hard to dispute. In fact, aside from when actual public water supplies are contaminated, indoor air is probably about the only risk associated with Superfund sites that we should care about. Every analysis EPA has ever done has shown that risks associated with Superfund sites are otherwise overestimated and it is not a cost-effective place to be putting environmental protection dollars. The question… More

Sometimes, Settlements Really Are Win-Win Propositions: An Innovative NDPES Settlement That Works For Everyone

GenOn KendallI don’t normally blog about cases in which I’m involved, but since this one made the front page of the Boston Globe, I suppose it’s sufficiently newsworthy. Yesterday, EPA announced that a settlement had been reached among EPA, MassDEP, our client GenOn Kendall, and the Charles River Watershed Association and the Conservation Law Foundation concerning the NPDES permit for Kendall Station. As a result of the settlement, when all the equipment needed to implement it has been installed, both the water intake and discharge and the thermal load will be… More

The Next Big Thing for the Future of Everything

In what might not be an overstatement, Seth has described Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), as "the future of everything".  If so, welcome to the future of the future of everything.  The GWSA requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to set a 2020 goal for state-wide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, and, before January 1, 2011, to create a plan outlining how to get there.  Just in time, EEA yesterday released the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, which sets the 2020 emissions goal at 25% below 1990 levels (the maximum reductions… More

Which Take Longer in Massachusetts, Permit Renewals or Permit Appeals?

An adjudicatory hearing decision issued by MassDEP in September just came to my attention. The decision in the case, In the Matter of Town of Plymouth, is worth reading for those of you interested in the emerging issues related to concerns over nutrients and how nutrient discharges will be regulated in groundwater or surface water discharge permits.

What caught me eye about the decision, however, wasn’t its substance, but was instead its procedural history. The Town of Plymouth first obtained a permit for the groundwater discharge from its municipal wastewater treatment plant in 2000. The Eel River Watershed Association appealed that… More

More on TMDLs, or Too Much Darn Litigation

Sometimes, the headline writes the story. EPA’s TMDL program under the Clean Water Act has been the subject of so much litigation since its inception that EPA has a web page devoted to the status of litigation on the establishment of TMDLs.

Bringing things close to home, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Coalition for Buzzards Bay filed suit late last month, challenging implementation by MassDEP and EPA of the TMDL program for certain embayments on Cape Cod and Nantucket. (Full disclosure time – this firm represents the CBB on unrelated matters.)

The law suit claims that MassDEP erred in… More

Fishing, Fowling, Navigation and Wind Energy: SJC Approves Cape Wind Siting Process

The Cape Wind project cleared another important hurdle yesterday with a 4-2 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, holding that the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) can authorize local construction permits for the project’s transmission lines. The decision in Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound Inc. v. Energy Facilities Siting Board is particularly significant because it means that the renewable energy project has all of the state and local permits it needs to move forward.

In late 2007, after the Cape Cod Commission denied its proposed Development of Regional Impact (DRI), Cape Wind applied to the EFSB for… More

There Is a Statute of Limitations For Challenging Permits In Massachusetts (Or, We’re Crazy Here, But Not That Crazy)

Those who operate industrial facilities or do development in Massachusetts often know far more than they would like about Chapter 214, § 7A, the environmental citizens’ suit provision of the Massachusetts General Laws. Chapter 214, § 7A, eliminates plaintiffs’ usual obligation to demonstrate standing and simply gives 10 citizens the right to sue to prevent or eliminate “damage to the environment.” The damage does have to constitute a violation of a statute, regulation, ordinance, or by-law, the major purpose of which is to prevent damage to the environment.

Chapter 214, § 7A, does not contain any statute of limitations. Does this mean that ten persons… More

The SJC Really Means It: Only the Legislature Can Give Up the Public’s Ownership Interest in Tidelands

As many of you know, the Commonwealth’s tidelands licensing statute, Chapter 91, is one of my favorites, for no other reason than that it gives me the opportunity to talk about where the “waters ebbeth and floweth.”  Deriving from the Colonial Ordinances of 1641 and 1647, Chapter 91 is about as arcane as it gets – which, of course, lawyers are supposed to like.

The short version is that the Commonwealth holds the fee interest in “Commonwealth Tidelands” – those below the low water line. While the Commonwealth can… More

Renewable Energy In Massachusetts: Is The Answer Finally Blowin’ In The Wind?

It has long been understood that Massachusetts that the Commonwealth cannot meet its renewable energy goals with solar power alone. Solar is great, but really ratcheting up the percentage of energy supplied by renewable sources is going to take a big commitment to wind. In fact, Governor Patrick announced a goal of 2,000 MW of wind on- and off-shore in Massachusetts by 2020. There are currently 17 MW of wind power in Massachusetts.

Everyone knows the permitting travails – now, hopefully, over – that Cape Wind has faced. It is less known that on-shore wind has not been any easier to develop in… More

Taking it to the Streets: the East Coast’s Newest Climate Initiative

It may be time to learn a new acronym.  The 10 RGGI states, plus Pennsylvania and Washington DC have banded together to create the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) — a group that has pledged to create a plan to address the estimated 30% of greenhouse gas emissions on the eastern seaboard caused by the transportation sector. 

In a Declaration of Intent released Wednesday, the leaders of the environmental, transportation and energy agencies of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC, pledged to develop and implement a three-year work… More

Water, Water, Everywhere: More Than a Drop to Treat

Last week, EPA released its Clean Watersheds Needs Survey 2008 Report to Congress. I have three immediate reactions to the Report. The first is that there are a lot of needs out there. The Report’s bottom line is that there is currently an expected shortfall of $298 billion over the next 20 years for clean water infrastructure. As Congress turns from short-term stimulus spending to long-term concerns about the deficit, it’s difficult to see Congress being eager to hear National Association of Clean Water Agencies Executive Director Ken Kirk say that

the federal government must become a long-term partner in developing a… More

EPA’s Move to Regulate Stormwater Discharges from Development Gathers Steam; EPA Issues Mandatory Questionnaire For Public Comment

EPA is proceeding with its plan to establish a new program to regulate stormwater discharges from new development and redevelopment, with a target date for a final rule by November 2012. The next step: the reissuance of draft mandatory questionnaires that, once finalized, will be sent to various stakeholders, including approximately 738,000 owners and developers of residential, industrial and commercial sites. According to EPA, the “target population for the Owner/Developer Questionnaires is all development establishments in the United States,” as defined by 8 NAICS codes (see Part A.4 of EPA’s Supporting Statement for further information on… More

Still Hope For New Municipal Waste Combustors in Massachusetts?

Yesterday’s New York Times had a very interesting article regarding the use of advanced municipal waste combustor technology in Europe. As the article notes, such plants are relatively commonplace in Europe, whereas literally no new waste-to-energy plants are being built in the United States. Ian Bowles, our own Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs – and someone who has generally been a very successful promoter of renewable energy technology – acknowledged that “Europe has gotten out ahead with this newest technology.” 

This shouldn’t be surprising given that states such as Massachusetts have moratoria on new municipal waste combustors. It’s difficult to… More

EPA Keeps Up the Stormwater Drumbeat: Releases Draft Permit for Charles River Communities

EPA Region 1 continues to roll out new programs on the stormwater front, and this week’s development is particularly important for private property owners in the Charles River watershed. The agency released proposed amendments to the Residual Designation for the Charles River (“RDA”) and a Draft General Permit for Residually Designated Discharges. While the proposed permit only affects the Massachusetts communities of Milford, Bellingham, and Franklin, EPA has stated that it may expand the General Permit to include other Charles River communities in the future, so property owners along the entire length of the Charles River should be paying attention.

More

The Arguments Are All Moot Now: The SJC Upholds the Legislature’s Chapter 91 Amendments

I’ve been waiting to write this headline ever since the SJC took this case. Today, the SJC issued its long-awaited decision in Moot v. Department of Environmental Protection. For those of you who pay attention to where the waters ebbeth and floweth – or at least where they ebbed and flowed in 1641 – you know that this is the second time that Moot has been before the SJC.

After the SJC struck down MassDEP regulations which provided that landlocked tidelands did not need a license under Chapter 91, as the Commonwealth’s waterways statute is now known, the Legislature took a… More

Believe It Or Not, Sometimes MassDEP Does Things of Which the SJC Does Not Approve

Those of us who advise clients regarding compliance with environmental regulations have often been in the awkward position of agreeing with clients that the agency position is, shall we say, misguided, yet at the same time advising against legal challenge, because the judicial review deck is stacked so heavily in favor of the agency. (In another time or place, one might ask why this is so.)

Nevertheless, occasionally, the agency loses and, when it does, that loss can be instructive. Yesterday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that MassDEP may not impose conditions on registrations under… More

Dog Bites Man, Monday Edition: Massachusetts Retains Its Municipal Waste Combustor Moratorium

As most of my Massachusetts readers know, on Friday, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles and DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt announced that Massachusetts would retain its moratorium on new construction or expansion of municipal waste combustors. Although the overall outcome is not really a surprise from this administration, a few points are worth noting.

The announcement says nothing about new technologies, such as plasma arc gasification. Arguably, such a technology is not “incineration” or “combustion,” so we’ll have to see whether the administration remains open to such alternatives to traditional incineration.

The administration emphasized that it is committed… More

A Follow-up On Regulatory Reform in Massachusetts: Secretary Bowles Starts to Get Some Suggestions

As I discussed last week, in response to the current dire state fiscal outlook, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles announced, pursuant to a request from Governor Patrick, a search for “options for departmental reorganization and consolidation, streamlined operations and procedures, and new models for doing the public’s business.” Given that Secretary Bowles has invited public assistance, it should not be too surprising that some folks have stepped up to the plate, so I thought I would share submittals that I have seen. 

Recently, both NAIOP and the Environmental League of Massachusetts have made suggestions to… More

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures? Massachusetts Environmental Agencies Look to Reinvent Themselves

On the be careful what you wish for front, Massachusetts Energy and Environment Secretary Ian Bowles announced yesterday an effort to examine “options for changes in administrative structures and programs to meet environmental goals in light of budget challenges.” The announcement identifies three separate areas of investigation:

Public-Private Partnerships – This makes a lot of sense, but, based on the announcement, seems to be too narrowly focused. The announcement indicates that the review will focus on management of properties owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. However, we shouldn’t just be looking at whether to let Disney sponsor the… More

RGGI Prices Fall Again in 5th Auction: $2.19 and $1.87

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has released the clearing prices from its 5th quarterly auction of CO2 allowances, held on September 9, 2009.  Prices for the 28.4 million 2009 vintage allowances sold fell sharply from the June auction’s clearing price of $3.23 to $2.19, and the 2.1 million 2012 vintage allowances sold for only $1.87, just one cent above the market floor of $1.86, and well below the $3.05 that they earned at the March 2009 auction, which was the first at which these later vintage allowances were offered for sale. 

Interestingly, while the number of participants in… More

Is it Good News or Bad? MassDEP Wins an Adjudicatory Hearing Appeal

Although not breaking any new ground, a decision from the Massachusetts Appeals Court last week provides a helpful summary of the discretion typically given to MassDEP in making permitting decisions. In Healer v. Department of Environmental Protection, abutters to a proposed wastewater treatment facility in Falmouth sued MassDEP, claiming that the groundwater discharge from the leach field associated with the facility would damage drinking water supplies and nearby wetlands. The Court affirmed the MassDEP Commissioner’s rejection of the abutters’ challenge.

As the Court noted

the “applicable standard of review is “highly deferential to the agency” and requires the reviewing… More

Massachusetts Limits The Standing of Businesses to Challenge Permits Issued to Competitors

In an important decision yesterday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the operator facility participating in the renewable portfolio standard program did not have standing to challenge a state decision authorizing other facilities to participate in the RPS program. The decision may have broad implications regarding when businesses may challenge the issuance of permits or other approvals to competitors in Massachusetts.

In Indeck Maine Energy v. Commissioner of Energy Resources, the plaintiffs operated biomass facilities which were authorized to sell renewable energy credits. When the Department of Energy Resources authorized two other biomass facilities to sell RPS credits, plaintiffs sued.

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Massachusetts Finalizes Global Warming Solutions Act Reporting Regulations

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday published a final amendment to the first set of Global Warming Solutions Act regulations, 310 CMR 7.71.  These regulations set a baseline for Massachusetts’ 1990 emissions and create a reporting system that will track emissions going forward, providing a framework for economy-wide reductions of 10% to 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.  The regulations are the first phase of implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, passed last August, which, at the time, called for the largest cuts in greenhouse gas reductions seen in the nation.

In short, the reporting regulations… More

More on Guidance v. Regulation

Laura Rome of Epsilon has helpfully reminded me that the maturity of a regulatory program is also relevant to whether an agency should proceed by guidance or regulation.  With newer programs that remain in flux, the flexibility inherent in guidance – and the easier amendment process for guidance – counsels in favor of guidance rather than regulation.

Laura’s comment also reminded me that, a few years ago, NAIOP was sufficiently concerned about MassDEP’s use of guidance as an end-run around the formality of the regulatory process that it submitted to MassDEP suggested “Guidance on Guidance.”  The overarching… More

Regulations v. Guidance: Pick Your Poison

There are not too many areas of environmental law where practice intersects frequently with academic theory. One such area is whether agencies should use notice and comment rule-making any time they want to set forth policy or whether they should instead be permitted to use flexible guidance documents. The real issue from the practitioner’s point of view is the extent to which use of guidance permits street level bureaucracy a degree of unfettered discretion that is truly scary. Like Judge Roy Bean, these bureaucrats are the law West of the Pecos – or at… More

RGGI’s Third Auction Brings In Divergent Bids of $3.51 and $3.05

RGGI, Inc. the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) today announced the results of its third auction of CO2 allowances, held on March 18, 2009.  The auction offered allowances from all ten states participating in RGGI — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

 As we noted earlier, new for RGGI’s third auction was that the states offered just under 2.2 million allowances for the 2012 vintage, providing a first-look at future market prices for RGGI allowances. These 2012 allowances sold at a clearing price of $3.05, while the 31.5 million… More

Massachusetts Takes Steps to Ensure That Stimulus Spending is Not Bogged Down in Environmental Reviews

It looks as though Massachusetts is going to at least try to avoid having lengthy environmental reviews create obstacles to spending its share of the federal stimulus package. A draft report prepared by the Commonwealth’s Permitting Task Force makes several recommendations which, if implemented, would indeed help to ensure that the money can get out the door and the shovels in the ground. Highlights include:

Allowing projects to proceed, at their own risk, during permit appeals. Providing that appeals related to any stimulus projects would be heard in the permit session of the… More

RGGI’S Second Auction: Prices Rise to $3.38

RGGI, Inc., the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced today that the second auction has proceeded smoothly and as planned.  All 31,505,898 allowances offered for sale at Auction 2 on December 17 were purchased at a clearing price of $3.38 per allowance.  This price is above the first RGGI auction’s clearing price of $3.07, and in line with recent prices for RGGI futures on the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange, which traded Monday at the same price. Auction 2 was the first to feature allowances from Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York, a factor which might have caused… More

Get Ready for Carbon Reporting in 2 weeks!

Massachusetts and California seem to be neck-and-neck in the race to be the first state to cap greenhouse gases economy-wide.

Massachusetts issued emergency regulations last week which create the first phase of a mandatory reporting program, thus taking the title of first state to implement the beginnings of an economy-wide cap and trade plan.   The regulations commence January 1, 2009, so Massachusetts facilities that might need to report should read Foley Hoag’s Client Alert on the new regulations very soon.

Not to be outdone, California also released big news last week.  With the Air Resources Board’s approval of the Scoping… More

It’s Not All About Climate Change: Massachusetts DEP Proposes New Stormwater Permitting Regime

Although some of you may think that the regulatory agencies are now all climate change all the time, Massachusetts DEP has demonstrated that there is still life in some more traditional aspects of environmental regulation. MassDEP has just proposed sweeping new stormwater regulations that would go far beyond the traditional EPA model of regulating construction sites and stormwater discharges from industrial facilities.

DEP’s proposal is far too detailed for a blog post. For those interested in this issue, take a look at the client alert we issued, which hits the big issues. One big-picture item to note: There certainly seems to be… More

You Want a Permit? You May Have to Get in Line.

It’s not really a surprise, but the nation’s financial woes have begun to affect state government. On Wednesday, Governor Deval Patrick announced a set of wide-ranging budget cuts, intended to save more than $1 Billion. The cuts were made necessary by a steep drop in tax revenue and predictions that the drop will continue for the rest of the state fiscal year. The Governor’s stated intention is to avoid cuts in local aid and education funding and this announcement did avoid any cuts in these areas.

Therefore, it is not surprising that agencies such as the Executive Office… More