Environmental agencies host listening sessions

The environmental agencies are beginning to move on implementing E.O. 562, Governor Baker’s March (2015) directive to the state’s executive branch agencies to review all regulations currently on the books. Regulations are to be targeted for retention, elimination (rescission), or amendment, by March 2016. Agencies are asked to look at whether the regulations harm businesses, whether they are cost-effective, and whether they exceed federal requirements, among other things.

In the past two weeks, the Department of Environmental Protection, followed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Executive Office of Energy and Environment, have all announced “public listening sessions” for the purpose of soliciting feedback about environmental regulations under each agency’s purview. (There are lot of them). Please consult our website calendar for the date, times, and location for these meetings.

In addition, MassDEP has put together a 30-person stakeholder group to help guide its decision-making (the group has met once so far), and announced its list of regulations for rescission (10), amendment (18), and retention (44). We are currently unaware of a similar list (or stakeholder group) for DCR or EOEEA.

There are many, many environmental regulations that help the state protect our rivers. Some of the most important are those associated with the Water Management Act, Wetland Protection Act, Waterways Act (Ch. 91)(MassDEP); the Interbasin Transfer Act, the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act (EEA), and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (Department of Fish and Game). There are many others as well. These regulations protect water quality, wildlife, and help ensure there is enough water in our rivers. In our view, some of these protections could be strengthened; we are concerned that weakening of the regulations could lead to more pollution, more water withdrawals for non-essential uses, and a loss of important wildlife habitat.

Mass Rivers’ Julia Blatt is serving on MassDEP’s stakeholder group, and we are also working with partners at the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, and the Environmental League of Massachusetts to engage the environmental community in this process.