Overview: In March 2007, Governor Deval L. Patrick announced his Regulation at the Speed of Business Initiative. For MassDEP, this initiative meant implementing a number of activities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental regulation in Massachusetts. The measures were designed to speed the regulatory decisions that are critical for development projects, and also allow MassDEP to concentrate its resources on the most pressing environmental concerns.

Objectives:

Reduced Permit Review Timelines: MassDEP delivered on, and continues to deliver on Governor Deval Patrick's Regulation at the Speed of Business initiative. Early in this initiative, MassDEP reduced most of the agency's own permit review deadlines (which are codified by regulation, and supported by a money-back guarantee) by 20%. MassDEP also committed to issuing 90% of all permit decisions in 180 days or less.

Specific Permit Categories Targeted for Streamlining Opportunities: As part of Governor Patrick's Regulation at the Speed of Business initiative, MassDEP targeted three permit categories for detailed analysis to identify ways to shorten agency decision time. These permit categories were selected for in-depth review because they are generally associated with significant economic development opportunities, have a history of customer concerns about decision delays, are relatively high-volume, and more than 20% of the permit decisions exceeded the 180-day goal in 2006. The three permit categories targeted were:

  • Air Quality Permits - Air quality permits, particularly those referred to as "non-major" comprehensive plan approvals, which are commonly required for new or expanded business activities. These permits also require a resource intensive "Best Available Control Technology" (BACT) analysis.
  • Chapter 91 Licenses for Land-Based Development Projects - Permits for non-water dependent developments in filled or flowed tidelands (Chapter 91 Licenses).
  • Permits for Groundwater Discharge of Wastewater - Permits for groundwater discharge of wastewater for major new and/or expanded development projects.

Streamlining of the Adjudicatory Appeals Process: MassDEP also further streamlined its adjudicatory appeals process, building on its efforts in 2005 & 2006 to institute an effective appeals pre screening program. This effort streamlined processing of cases currently in the system and created a revised intake for new appeals.

Results:

Despite significant staff losses due to our economic crisis, MassDEP has successfully met the Governor's charge.

Reduced Agency Permit Review Times Across-the-Board:

  • In FY10, MassDEP made permit determinations for 97% of the permit applications received within 180 days; and
  • In FY10, MassDEP made permit determinations for 96% of the permit applications received within the agency's new, reduced (20% shorter) permitting timelines.

Streamlined Process for Specific Permit Categories:

MassDEP worked with external stakeholders to develop and implement new regulatory processes for those permit categories targeted under this initiative:

  • Air Quality Permits: In Late 2007, MassDEP's air quality permitting regulations were revised to:
    • Allow a broader range of projects to use simple permits (known as "Limited Plan Approvals");
    • Allow permit consolidation and streamlined reporting by the regulated community;
    • Simplify administrative changes; and
    • Articulate options for conducting the required "Best Available Control Technology" (BACT) analyses.
  • Chapter 91 Licenses: In late 2008, MassDEP revised its regulations for Chapter 91 licensing in order to:
    • Streamline the licensing process; and
    • Align MassDEP's licensing process with the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office.
  • Groundwater Discharge Permits: In early 2009, MassDEP revised its regulations governing permitting for discharges of sanitary (non-industrial) wastewater to the ground, which included:
    • Creation of a simplified general permit for many categories of permits; and
    • Removal of key bottlenecks in permitting process.

Adjudicatory Appeals Streamlining:

  • In late 2007, MassDEP promulgated regulations that significantly reformed the adjudicatory appeals process in order to ensure more timely action.