As we reported in our recent Massachusetts Environmental and Land Use Alert, Massachusetts is in the first stages of seeking delegation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Clean Water Act program. This first stage includes filing with the state legislature a bill to bring certain elements of state law into conformance with EPA requirements. The effort has suffered a serious delay as this bill will not become law this year.
At a hearing before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on May 17, 2016, environmental groups spoke in opposition to delegation, raising concerns that MassDEP would be overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities of delegation in light of several years of underfunding and staff reductions due to budget cuts and early retirements. In support of the bill, Commissioner Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) stated that delegation would provide municipalities with more flexibility in complying with permits. This sentiment was echoed by others, including the Massachusetts Municipal Association. However, in light of concerns raised by environmental groups and concerns regarding MassDEP’s ability to meet strict federal standards, the bill was referred to the committee for further study. With the current legislative session scheduled to end in a few weeks, the bill will not be passed this session.
We expect this issue to come before legislature again during the next legislative session, which begins in January 2017.