- Department of Public Utilities
Media Contact for Department of Public Utilities Opens Inquiry to Enhance Inclusivity, Participation in Energy Proceedings
Craig Gilvarg, Press Secretary
Boston — The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) today issued an Order opening a formal inquiry to assess opportunities to enhance equitable public awareness of and participation in DPU proceedings. In the coming weeks, the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) will issue a companion Order to examine ways to increase public participation in its proceedings. Through these investigations, the DPU and EFSB will explore opportunities to boost stakeholder engagement and ensure that all people have been provided with the same opportunity to participate in DPU and EFSB proceedings, regardless of English proficiency.
“The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to ensuring all residents across the Commonwealth have the opportunity to participate in public proceedings in a meaningful way and have a seat at the table for decisions that will impact their communities, and this Order builds on the ongoing work our Administration has been doing to enhance public engagement and outreach,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We look forward to engaging with stakeholders to refresh our approach and increase participation to ensure all communities, but especially the Commonwealth’s environmental justice communities, have a voice in shaping our clean energy future.”
In 2020, consistent with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) 2017 Environmental Justice Policy, the DPU and the EFSB began work to further develop their Environmental Justice strategy to enhance meaningful involvement of all people and communities with the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, including climate change policies, and the equitable distributions of energy and environmental benefits and burdens. As part of this process, the DPU and EFSB are evaluating methods to promote further public involvement in their respective proceedings.
“The Baker-Polito Administration has committed to achieving the Commonwealth’s climate and energy goals equitably and in a way that protects and engages all residents,” said DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson. “The investigation opened by the DPU is designed to advance those goals and ensure that all members of the public are given an equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in energy proceedings.”
Over the past year, EEA has actively engaged with all its agencies, including the DPU and EFSB, on the development of Environmental Justice strategies. As part of this effort, EEA hosted informal listening sessions with environmental justice stakeholders intended to inform the development of methods to track the fair distribution of benefits and burdens and to engage more effectively with Massachusetts environmental justice populations. The comments provided by stakeholders at those listening sessions will inform the development of agency-specific environmental justice strategies. Additional listening sessions are expected to be held this spring.
As part of these efforts, the DPU has opened this investigation to explore how to boost community outreach and increase participation and engagement in energy proceedings. The DPU expects to ultimately establish comprehensive rules, guidelines, procedures and/or regulations which will support robust, comprehensive and equitable public engagement in proceedings.
Notice of this proceeding has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, posted on the DPU website, and will be published in multiple newspapers, posted on the websites of utilities that DPU regulates, sent to stakeholders, and sent to all municipalities in the Commonwealth. The DPU invites and encourages all interested persons to submit written comments on this matter not later than Monday, June 14, 2021. Upon receipt and review of the comments received, the DPU will determine the next steps which may include further opportunities for public engagement on this topic.
On March 26, 2021, Governor Charlie Baker signed comprehensive climate change legislation that includes important provisions related to Environmental Justice. Recognizing the significant impact of climate change on Environmental Justice communities overburdened by poor air quality and disproportionately high levels of pollution, the legislation statutorily defines Environmental Justice and environmental burdens, including climate change as an environmental burden. The legislation also expands Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review to require an Environmental Impact Report for all projects that impact air quality within one mile of an Environmental Justice Neighborhood, and requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a stakeholder process to develop a cumulative impact analysis as a condition of permitting certain projects. This change would, for the first time, require the agency to evaluate not just individual project impacts but also historic environmental pollution throughout the community through the permit process.