MEPA review of a project is initiated through the preparation and filing of an Environmental Notification Form (ENF). This guide provides guidelines for preparing and filing an ENF.
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Environmental Notification Form (ENF) Preparation and Filing
Table of Contents
Electronic Filing Requirements
The MEPA Office is only accepting electronic project submittals. Electronic submittals that are received at MEPA@mass.gov by 5:00 PM on the submittal deadline will be accepted for publication in the next edition of the Environmental Monitor. Please note that a filing will not be published in the Environmental Monitor unless it is complete upon submission.
An electronic copy of the complete submittal (including all attachments) should be sent concurrently to the MEPA Office (MEPA@mass.gov) and to the required distribution list. Please use the following MEPA Distribution List for state agencies, which will continue to be updated to reflect any changes in required distribution format (electronic vs. hard copy) on the part of state agencies. To facilitate review, you may be requested to provide a courtesy hard copy of a project submittal to the MEPA Analyst.
The electronic submittal should be sent to MEPA and state agencies requesting electronic distribution using a file share service. The entire electronic submittal, including appendices and site plans, must be accessible and legible. Additionally, please ensure the submittal meets the following criteria:
- The link to download the electronic submittal must be accessible by others (not just the direct recipient).
- All electronic submittals over 50 pages must include bookmarks or an electronic table of contents that provides direct links to each of the sections and appendices. Alternatively, each section and appendix should be provided as a separate file.
- Permissions must be set to allow for the electronic document to be downloaded from a file sharing website without requiring an individual to create an account. This provision does not apply to secure FTP file sharing websites.
Due to volume restrictions of the mass.gov email system, please do not directly send the electronic submittal as a PDF. Please be prepared to provide copies of electronic submittals in an alternative format (such as reduced file sizes or zip files) to anyone requesting to receive them.
Please note that a new MEPA Interim Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency (Effective Oct. 1, 2021) is now in effect for all ENFs/EENFs as of October 1, 2021.
The MEPA Office has finalized two MEPA Environmental Justice Protocols with effective dates of January 1, 2022:
- FINAL MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for Environmental Justice Populations (effective date of January 1, 2022)
- FINAL MEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts on Environmental Justice Populations (effective date of January 1, 2022)
These protocols supplement proposed amendments to MEPA regulations at 301 CMR 11.00, which were promulgated on December 24, 2021.
The transitional rules regarding environmental justice outreach were RESCINDED on January 1, 2022.
Effective January 1, 2022, all new MEPA projects located within a "Designated Geographic Area" (as defined in 301 CMR 11.02) around Environmental Justice (EJ) populations will be required to provide opportunities for public involvement by such EJ populations prior to filing an ENF/EENF. A "Designated Geographic Area" is defined as the area within one mile of the project or EJ population; or, for a project that meets or exceeds MEPA review thresholds at 301 CMR 11.03(8)(a) and (b) or that generates 150 or more new adt of diesel vehicle traffic over a duration of one year or more, excluding public transit trips, the area within five miles of the project or EJ population.
If the project meets or exceeds mandatory EIR thresholds, or will be seeking expedited review under 301 CMR 11.06(8) (Single EIR) or 11.06(13) (Rollover EIR), the project must also provide advance notification of the project no later than 45 days, or earlier than 90 days, prior to filing. The advance notification must be provided to community-based organizations (CBOs) and tribes based on an EJ Reference List maintained by the EEA EJ Director, and must be translated into other languages as required by the MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for Environmental Justice Populations. Proponents can obtain an EJ Reference List for a project by emailing MEPA-EJ@mass.gov and including the project name, address, and all municipalities located in whole or in part within the “Designated Geographic Area” (in most cases, 1 mile radius) around the project site. A copy of the EJ Screening Form to be used when providing advance notification can be obtained here.
See here for additional requirements regarding language translation and interpretation.
Preparing an ENF
Prior to filing the ENF, the Proponent may consult with the MEPA Office and any participating agencies to determine any review thresholds the project may meet or exceed and any potential Agency Action it may require. The Proponent may also schedule a pre-filing meeting with the MEPA Office to discuss how to address standard filing requirements and unique aspects of a project.
The ENF submittal should include a completed the Environmental Notification Form Form (Word Document) (effective Jan. 1, 2022) which clearly identifies the MEPA review thresholds that the project meets or exceeds and any Agency Actions that it may require. All sections of the ENF form should be completed. Supplemental pages and/or footnotes to tables may be used to clarify aspects of the project.
The ENF should include a supporting project narrative with a detailed project description, an alternatives analysis, evaluation of potential environmental impacts, and a description of mitigation measures. Supporting studies or technical analyses may be appended to the ENF or provided as attachments.We strongly encourage providing electronic copies of supporting studies or technical analyses.
The alternatives analysis is a significant component of MEPA review. The alternatives analysis should identify the project purpose and criteria for selecting the preferred alternative. The alternatives analysis should clearly identify the environmental impacts associated with each alternative. Examples of alternatives include, but are not limited to, alternative site locations, site uses, site/building configurations, and construction methodologies. The alternatives analysis and project narrative should support the selection of the Preferred Alternative and ensure that the project avoids, minimizes, and mitigates environmental impacts to the maximum extent feasible.
The ENF should also address consistency with relevant Executive Orders and EEA Policies as applicable.
A link to helpful resources when filing an ENF can be found below.
Key Actions for Preparing an ENF
Filing and Circulation Requirements
The following must be included with your submittal to the MEPA Office:
- One electronic copy of the signed ENF, that meets the electronic filing requirements identifed above
- The Following Attachments:
- List or table of contents which identifies all attachments
- U.S.G.S. map (good quality color copy, 8-½ x 11 inches or larger, at a scale of 1:24,000) indicating the project location and boundaries.
- Plan, at an appropriate scale, of existing conditions on the project site and its immediate environs, showing all known structures, roadways and parking lots, railroad rights-of-way, wetlands and water bodies, wooded areas, farmland, steep slopes, public open spaces, and major utilities.
- Plan, at an appropriate scale for size of project, depicting environmental constraints on or adjacent to the project site such as Priority and/or Estimated Habitat of state-listed rare species, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Chapter 91 jurisdictional areas, Article 97 lands, wetland resource area delineations, water supply protection areas, and historic resources and/or districts.
- Plan, at an appropriate scale, of proposed conditions upon completion of project (if construction of the project is proposed to be phased, there should be a site plan showing conditions upon the completion of each phase).
- MEPA Electronic Distribution List: of all agencies and persons to whom the proponent circulated the ENF, in accordance with 301 CMR 11.16(2).
- List of municipal and federal permits and reviews required by the project, as applicable.
- Printout of output report from RMAT Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool, available here.
- Printout from the EEA EJ Maps Viewer showing the project location relative to the Environmental Justice (EJ) Populations located in whole or in part within a 1-mile and 5-mile radius of the project site.
The Proponent must publish a notice in a newspaper notice to be Published no more than 30 days before submittal. Publication should be in a newspaper of local circulation in each municipality affected by the Project, or in a newspaper of statewide circulation if the an affected municipality is not served by a local population.
- Have you published a newspaper public notice of the ENF filing in local newspaper?
- The Proponent must certify compliance with the public notice requirements in the in the ENF Certification Section, identify the name of the newspaper(s) and the date the notice will be published. The public notice should be published on or before the Environmental Monitor publication date (up to 30 days beforehand).
At the time that the ENF is submitted to the Secretary, the project proponent must distribute the ENF to state and municipal agencies in accordance with 301 CMR 11.16(2) and to the MEPA Office using the MEPA Distribution List.
Public Comment and Review Period
The publication of the project in the Environmental Monitor begins the 20-day public comment period. Once a project has been published, an Environmental Analyst will be assigned to review the project and will typically schedule a site visit. The date, time and location of the site visit will be published in the Environmental Monitor.
The comment period of an ENF can be extended at the Proponent's request and subject to the Secretary's approval.
Within 10 days of the close of the comment period, the Secretary will issue a Certificate on the ENF stating whether or not an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required and, if so, identify the scope of the EIR.
The 2023 Environmental Monitor Publication Schedule contains submission dates, comment deadlines and decision due dates for 2023.
Preparing an Expanded ENF (EENF)
An Expanded Environmental Notification Form (EENF) must be submitted when the Proponent is requesting that the Secretary allow a Single Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) under 301 CMR 11.06(8), a Rollover EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(13) (only available for projects that are required to submit an EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b)), or a Full or Phase 1 Waiver under 301 CMR 11.11 from the requirement to file a Mandatory EIR. In addition to a completed ENF and the required attachments (e.g. a project description, supporting data detailing potential environmental impacts, etc.), an Expanded ENF (EENF) must include more extensive and detailed information that describes and analyzes a proposed project and its alternatives and assesses its potential environmental impacts and environmental mitigation measures. The filing and circulation requirements for an EENF are the same as for an ENF. An EENF is subject to an extended 37-day review period, consisting of a 30-day comment period and 7 days to issue a Certificate.
Effective January 1, 2022, all new MEPA projects located in "Designated Geographic Areas" (defined at 301 CMR 11.02) around EJ populations are required to submit an EIR as set forth in 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b). Such projects may request that the Secretary allow a SEIR under 301 CMR 11.06(8) or a Rollover EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(13); however, they are not eligible to seek a Full Waiver from the requirement to file an EIR. Further guidance on preparing EIRs, including EIRs required under 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b), is available here.
The MEPA Office recommends scheduling a pre-filing meeting prior to filing an EENF with a request for a Full Waiver, Phase 1 Waiver, SEIR, Rollover EIR, or Special Review Procedure (SRP). These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss specific or unique aspects of a project, how to address standard filing requirements at a level commensurate with an EENF, and to highlight the specific criteria for a Waiver that must be adhered to in the EENF.
Request for Single EIR
For projects subject to a Mandatory EIR, the Proponent may submit an EENF with a request that the Secretary allow a Single EIR to be submitted in lieu of the typical two-stage Draft and Final EIR process pursuant to Section 11.06(8) of the MEPA regulations.
In addition to the items listed on the ENF form, an EENF requesting a Single EIR (except for projects in "Designated Geographic Areas" around EJ populations, addressed below) should contain: a formal request that the Secretary allow a Single EIR; a greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis; and an extensive and detailed narrative that address the findings that the Secretary must consider when determining whether to grant the request for a Single EIR per Section 11.06(8) of the MEPA regulations. The EENF must:
- describe and analyze all aspects of the Project and all feasible alternatives, regardless of any jurisdictional or other limitation that may apply to the Scope;
- provide a detailed baseline in relation to which potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures can be assessed; and
- demonstrate that the planning and design of the Project use all feasible means to avoid potential environmental impacts.
For projects located in “Designated Geographic Areas” around EJ populations, an EENF requesting a Single EIR must contain all the content specified in #1-3 above, except that a greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis is required only if the project exceeds mandatory EIR thresholds or is otherwise required to prepare a GHG analysis by the MEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts on Environmental Justice Populations. The EENF must, in addition to the criteria above:
- describe and analyze all aspects of the project that may affect EJ populations located in whole or in part within the Designated Geographic Area around the project; describe measures taken to provide meaningful opportunities for public involvement by EJ populations prior to filing the EENF, including any changes made to the project to address concerns raised by or on behalf of EJ populations; and provide a detailed baseline in relation to any existing unfair or inequitable Environmental Burden and related public health consequences impacting EJ populations in accordance with 301 CMR 11.07(6)(n)1.
Request for Rollover EIR
For projects required to submit an EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b) (and only for these projects), the Proponent may submit an EENF with a request that the Secretary allow a Rollover EIR in accordance with 301 CMR 11.06(13). To support this request, the EENF must be accompanied by a Proposed EIR (which should be a separate and standalone document), which, if the request for Rollover EIR is granted, would be published as a Final EIR in a subsequent Environmental Monitor in lieu of the typical two-stage Draft and Final EIR process. Alternatively, the Secretary could require the Proponent to file responses to comments on the Proposed EIR together with Proposed Section 61 Findings, and direct that the responses and findings shall be filed, circulated, and reviewed as a Final EIR in a subsequent Environmental Monitor.
In order to allow a Rollover EIR, the Secretary must find that the dual EENF and Proposed EIR:
- presents a complete and definitive description and analysis of the project and its alternatives, and an assessment of its potential environmental and public health impacts and mitigation measures sufficient to allow a Participating Agency to fulfill its obligations in accordance with M.G.L. c. 30, §§ 61 and 62K and 301 CMR 11.12(5);
- demonstrates that the project will not materially exacerbate any existing unfair or inequitable Environmental Burden and related public health consequences impacting an EJ population, and will not result in a disproportionate adverse effect or increased climate change effects on an EJ population;
- describes measures taken to provide meaningful opportunities for public involvement by EJ populations prior to filing the dual ENF and Proposed EIR, including any changes made to the project to address concerns raised by or on behalf of EJ populations;
- shows that comments received on the dual ENF and Proposed EIR do not raise substantial issues not previously considered by the Proponent; and
- shows that no substantive issues remain to be resolved.
Requesting a Waiver
The MEPA Regulations include provisions to streamline project review. These include provisions at 301 CMR 11.11 which allow the Secretary to waive the requirement to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) or to allow a phase of a project to proceed prior to completion of MEPA review for the entire project (301 CMR 11.11).
A request for a waiver requires that the Proponent provide more information at the initiation of MEPA review through preparation and submission of an Expanded Environmental Notification Form (EENF). Any request for a waiver is subject to an extended review period, including a 30-day public comment period. The EENF must include:
- a formal request that the Secretary consider granting a waiver
- address the regulatory criteria for granting a waiver
- provide a detailed project description, information on baseline environmental conditions and an alternatives analysis
- identify measures the Proponent will take to avoid, minimize and mitigate environmental impacts; and,
- include a greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis in accordance with the MEPA GHG Policy and Protocol.
Standards for all Waiver Requests
A Waiver may be granted if the Secretary finds that strict compliance with the EIR provision or requirement would:
- result in an undue hardship for the Proponent, unless based on delay in compliance by the Proponent; and
- not serve to avoid or minimize Damage to the Environment.
Standards for a Phase 1 Waiver
A request for a Phase 1 waiver must also address the following standards:
- the potential environmental impacts of Phase 1, taken alone, are insignificant;
- ample and unconstrained infrastructure facilities and services exist to support Phase 1;
- the Project is severable, such that Phase 1 does not require the implementation of any other future phase of the Project or restrict the means by which potential environmental impacts from any other phase of the Project may be avoided, minimized or mitigated; and
- the Agency Action on Phase 1 will contain terms to ensure due compliance with MEPA prior to commencement of any other phase of the Project.
Review of Waiver Requests
The Secretary will make a determination regarding the request for a Waiver based on review of the EENF; a demonstration that a project can meet the regulatory standards for waivers; consultation with state agencies; and review of comments submitted on the EENF.
If the Secretary does not propose to grant a waiver, that determination will be included in a Certificate on the EENF. The Certificate on the EENF indicate whether the Secretary proposes to grant a waiver and, if a waiver is not granted, it will also include a Scope for the EIR.
If the Secretary determines that the waiver request has merit, the Secretary will issue a Certificate on the EENF and a separate Draft Record of Decision (DROD) which may include a Scope for the EIR of the entire project, if applicable. The DROD will indicate that the Secretary proposes to grant a waiver and address consistency with the regulatory criteria for a waiver.
The DROD is published in the next edition of the Environmental Monitor and is subject to a 14-day public comment period. The Secretary has 7 days after the close of the comment period to make a determination to grant the waiver in the form of a Final Record of Decision (FROD) or, if he declines to grant it, to issue a revised Scope for the EIR to include impacts associated with Phase 1.