Finally catching up with many states that have made it possible to apply for and review permits online, Massachusetts’ Energy and Environmental Information Public Access System (EIPAS) went online last month, promising to usher in a new era of improved accessibility to the permitting process, while still exhibiting growing pains and limitations.
Information Data Portal
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) has created an online platform called the Information Data Portal which allows the public to view information on: (a) permitting, inspection and enforcement at specific facilities located throughout the Commonwealth, (b) dashboards that provide comparative data relating to different permitting programs or different cities and towns, and (c) limited analytical data relating to public water suppliers of drinking water.
Permitting, Inspection and Enforcement Information
The Information Data Portal includes permitting, inspection, and enforcement information from a broad array of programs implemented by the agencies within EEA. The data provided is a tremendous step forward in transparency and in providing the public access to the regulatory status of facilities in their community. However, the data is limited. In the searches we performed, actual permits were not available; instead, the database states that a particular permit was applied for, indicates whether it was issued, and provides the related dates. The database also provides inspection information, including the dates of inspections and where applicable the program the inspection focused on. However, information on the results of the inspection are not included. The database provides enforcement information, but it is limited to the type of enforcement document issued, the program it was issued under, and the penalty assessed. The information in the database begins with January 1, 1996.
The Information Data Portal provides information on the following programs, based on the FAQ page. While EEA plans to expand the information over time, the current limitations on the information provided are discussed below:
- Air Quality Program.
- Hazardous Waste Control.
- Industrial Waste water. According to EEA, this includes industrial NPDES permits; however, because the NPDES program is implemented by US EPA, individual NPDES permits are included not all authorizations issued under a general permit are included.
- Solid Waste Management. Not included: third-party inspection certification applications received prior to May 15, 2017.
- Toxic Use Reduction. Note, this relates to certifications of individuals to be Toxic Use Reduction Planners.
- Waste Site Cleanup. This includes a limited amount of Waste Site Cleanup information, such as: Tier 1 permit actions, special project designations and Grants of Environmental Restriction. No other waste site cleanup documentation is included, and no inspection or enforcement information is included. Additional information on the Waste Site Cleanup program is available on MassDEP’s website.
- Water Pollution Control. Not included: inspection and enforcement information.
- Water Supply / Drinking Water. The FAQ notes that all WS10 permits are included, but applications received prior to May 15, 2017 are not included. WS10 refers to certification of cross connection testers. In addition, inspection and enforcement information is limited to public water supply systems.
- Watershed Management. Not included: permitting information on WM04 herbicide applications, and inspection and enforcement information. According to EEA, this category does include Municipal NPDES permits; however, because the NPDES program is implemented by US EPA, individual NPDES permits are included not all authorizations issued under a general permit are included.
- Wetlands and Waterways. The following are not included: inspection and enforcement information. The only permitting information that is included is:
- WW10 – Major Fill and Excavation Projects;
- WW11, - Minor Fill and Excavation Projects;
- 401QCminor; and
- WW13 – Wetlands Renovation of Abandoned Cranberry Bogs).
- UST & Environmental Results Program. No permitting information is available; however, inspection and enforcement information is available.
The public can search for drinking water data relating to public water suppliers in the Information Data Portal under the search button “program data.” You can search by town, the name of the public water supplier, the contaminant group or the chemical name. The results of the search include the actual data for the identified chemical including the date of the test and the method used. The database indicates whether the data relates to a sample from a raw (prior to treatment) or finished (after treatment) water source.
At this time, data is limited to the data in MassDEP’s state-wide drinking water database. EEA plans to expand the available data over time.
On the main page of the Information Data Portal, EEA has provided three dashboards that show statistical information in several visual formats relating to the permitting done by EEA and its agencies. The portal contains the following dashboards:
- Statewide MassDEP Permit Approvals by Town and Type graphically shows the types of permits issued state-wide or for the selected town(s).
- Statewide MassDEP Count of Permits, Inspections, & Enforcements Time Model graphically shows the number of permit determinations, inspections, and enforcements in a particular timeframe.
- Statewide MassDEP Total Permit Approvals by Program/Permit Type, Town and Date Range shows the number of permit approvals by type of permit and by date either statewide or within the town or towns that you select.
EEA ePLACE: Online permitting
Applications for Permits
The online permitting portal is known as ePLACE and is located here. In order to apply for a permit using the portal, users need to register online and create a username and password. According to the EEA announcement, this online permitting portal can be used for permits in the following programs:
- Air Quality program;
- Drinking Water program;
- Hazardous Waste program;
- Solid Waste program; and
- Toxics Use Reduction program.
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR):
- Pesticide Applicator License program.
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MDCR):
- Special Use permitting program for the 2018 season.
Public Access to Permits
The EEA ePLACE Public Access Portal allows the public to search and view all authorizations that were issued electronically. The database of electronic permits is limited because EEA began accepting electronic permits in May 2017. Permits that are eligible for electronic filing at this time are identified above under “Application for Permits.
In addition, this portal allows the public to search, view and comment on applications that are open for public comment. At this time, public comments can only be submitted online for Air Quality Permits.