On October 24, 2011 Commissioner Kimmell announced the Draft Action Plan for Regulatory Reform at the MassDEP. This Plan was developed as a response to strategically adjust to budget cuts that have occurred at the MassDEP in recent years. Since 2002, MassDEP budget cuts have resulted in reductions from 1200 full time equivalents to approximately 840 today. But MassDEP responsibilities have not decreased. In fact its responsibilities have increased to address public concerns and passage of new legislation such as the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Massachusetts Mercury Management Act. As a result of these budget constraints and staff reductions, the MassDEP was tasked to think and act differently and make regulatory reform a high priority while adhering to certain guiding principles.
- Proposed reforms would not weaken or undermine environmental protection standards.
- Proposed regulatory or permitting changes would be aimed primarily at helping MassDEP manage its responsibilities within its current staffing levels by resulting in some time savings for the agency.
- None of the proposed reforms would transfer new responsibilities to municipalities, as these are also managing budget decreases.
- None of the proposed reforms would alter MassDEP obligations under its federal funding agreements with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, proposed reforms are largely concentrated on "state-only" programs such as wetlands, waterways, wastewater, and solid waste as opposed to air quality.
This regulatory reform effort expanded 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 the Governor. The 2007 effort resulted in significant streamlining of air permit approvals under the Environmental Results Program for emergency and non-emergency engines, dry cleaners, lithographic printers and other air emission types. This new regulatory reform effort proposes reforms that the MassDEP believes are appropriate, and will allow the MassDEP to shift resources to higher priority activities in order to fulfill its mission of environmental protection. Aspects of the reforms that have been selected are listed below.
- None of the proposed reforms are intended to reduce public process, and no reforms to appeals processes have been proposed.
- Many of the proposed reforms should result in better environmental outcomes by reducing permitting procedures for environmentally beneficial projects or for avoiding areas with sensitive environmental resources.
- Many of the proposed reforms seek to eliminate duplication in current permitting procedures. Some of the proposed ideas eliminate duplication within MassDEP's own programs, and several others reduce duplication with municipal approvals.
- Several of the reforms seek to reduce direct staff oversight of activities that are routine and that do not pose the most significant environmental protection concerns. This will allow MassDEP staff to instead focus on those activities that deserve the most scrutiny.
If you have questions about the MassDEP’s Draft Action Plan for Regulatory Reform, please contact Trinity’s Massachusetts office at (508) 630-2246.