Statement of Purpose

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This document is the Final Action Plan for Regulatory Reform at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). This plan is first and foremost an attempt to strategically cope with the budget cuts MassDEP has suffered in recent years. Since 2002, MassDEP's budget has been significantly reduced, and staffing has been cut commensurately, from 1200 full time equivalents to approximately 840 today. Yet during that same period MassDEP's responsibilities have only increased through efforts to address emerging environmental contaminants of concern and passage of new legislation such as the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Massachusetts Mercury Management Act. As a result, the agency's resources are now out of alignment with its responsibilities. This deficit jeopardizes MassDEP's ability to perform its vital functions, and to maintain its position as a national leader in environmental protection.

In addition, and as a result of the budget constraints faced by state and local agencies across the Commonwealth, the Patrick-Murray Administration and the Massachusetts Legislature have made clear that our current budget constraints require us to think and act differently and that regulatory reform is a high priority in the Commonwealth. This Action Plan specifically addresses the agency's obligations under Section 71 of Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2010 ("An Act relative to economic development reorganization") which requires state agencies to review their regulations retrospectively to ensure they remain appropriate and current. The current staffing levels at MassDEP are inadequate to assure municipalities and the public that we will maintain the technical outreach and assistance they currently rely on, or to maintain compliance and enforcement levels that are sufficient to protect the environment and impose a level playing field for Massachusetts businesses. MassDEP has already fallen behind on certain important federal commitments for surface water and air quality activities due to inadequate staffing resources. Regulatory reform is not only necessary to address these serious existing and potential future shortfalls, but it will also help ensure that MassDEP is well-positioned to facilitate Massachusetts' economic recovery by meeting the Governor's commitment to permitting at the speed of business as permit volumes rebound from recessionary lows.

Finding efficiencies in the way we operate is not a novel idea, and many reforms have already been made at MassDEP. This initiative was expressly intended to expand upon the successful efforts launched by MassDEP in 2007 to streamline certain permitting and appeals processes and ensure that MassDEP's permits are issued within six months as directed by Governor Patrick. Through that effort, MassDEP has already streamlined significant aspects of the wetlands appeals process, certain air permit approvals, and groundwater discharge permitting. Consequently, this plan does not contain any quick-fix solutions, nor will it solve MassDEP's long-term budget needs in and of itself. Nonetheless, MassDEP believes this is the broadest-based effort at comprehensive regulatory reform in the agency's recent history. This plan presents a package of proposed reforms that MassDEP believes are individually appropriate, and that will collectively allow us to shift resources to higher priority activities that we are currently falling behind on.