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15. Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act
Authorities: M.G.L. c. 30, §§ 61-62H: Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act; 301 CMR 11.00: MEPA Regulations.
Jurisdiction: Projects requiring a state environmental license or permit, or funding.
Applicability: Proposed projects are subject to Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review if they equal or exceed the MEPA thresholds. Examples of threshold activities include:
See 301 CMR 11.03: Review Thresholds for a complete discussion of these thresholds.
PLEASE NOTE: It is important to thoroughly review the complete list of MEPA thresholds for applicability to a particular proposal.
Regulatory Summary: The MEPA Unit, within the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, administers this review. MEPA provides opportunities for public review of the potential environmental impacts of projects for which state agency action is required; and helps state agencies to satisfy their obligation to avoid damage to the environment, or if damage to the environment cannot be avoided, to minimize and mitigate the damage to the maximum extent practicable. State agency action includes activities that are undertaken, permitted, and/or funded by agencies of the Commonwealth, and the transfer of lands owned or controlled by the Commonwealth. Major categories of project impacts subject to review include land; rare species; wetlands, waterways and tidelands; water; wastewater; transportation; energy; air; solid and hazardous waste; historical and archaeological resources; and state-designated ACECs.
The intent of the MEPA review is to inform project proponents and state agencies of potential adverse environmental impacts while a proposal is still in the planning stage. The proponent, through the preparation of one or more review documents, identifies required state agency actions and describes the means by which the proposal complies with applicable regulatory standards and requirements. All relevant state agencies are required to identify any aspects of the proposal that require additional description or analysis prior to completion of the agency action, most commonly issuance of an environmental permit.
Review Process: Proponents of projects that require state action and that meet or exceed MEPA review thresholds (301 CMR 11.03: Review Thresholds) must file an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) (301 CMR 11.05: ENF Preparation and Filing) and may be required to file an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) (301 CMR 11.07: EIR Preparation and Filing). Notice of the availability of review documents and the ENFs are published in the semi-monthly Environmental Monitor (www.mass.gov/envir/mepa/secondlevelpages/currentissue.htm). The total review period for an ENF is 30 days from the publication date of the Monitor, of which the first 20 days is available for public and agency comments. After the close of public comment and before the last day of the ENF review, the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs issues a certificate stating whether or not an EIR is required and, if so, what the scope of the EIR will be. The scope is limited to the potential environmental damages of the proposal that are within the subject matter of required state permits. The EIR review period last for 37 days following the date of the Environmental Monitor in which notice of its availability is published, of which the first 30 days are available for public and agency comment. Within seven days after the close of comments, the Secretary issues a certificate stating whether or not the EIR adequately and properly complies with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act and its implementing regulations. No state permits can be issued until the Secretary certifies that the EIR complies with MEPA, that is, the environmental impacts have been fully described and all necessary plans to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse effects are in place.
The MEPA regulations also provide mechanisms to review proposals that are below MEPA thresholds but may have adverse environmental impacts (301 CMR 11.04: Fail-Safe Review), project changes and time lapses (301 CMR 11.10: Project Changes and Lapses of Time), and for waivers of certain provisions of the regulations (11.11: Waivers).
Forms: Environmental Notification Form at http://www.mass.gov/envir/mepa/thirdlevelpages/downloads.htm.
Contact: MEPA Office (617) 626-1020.
Publication Date: Fall, 2003
A publication of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. NA170Z2338. This publication is funded (in part) by a grant/cooperative agreement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its sub-agencies.