The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is accepting public comments on its proposed draft Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency Policy (the Draft Policy). The deadline for submitting comments is February 9, 2015.
Under Section 7 of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 and Chapter 30, Section 61 of the MEPA statute, each state permitting agency and the MEPA Office must consider the reasonably foreseeable climate change impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of projects under MEPA review and ensure that those projects take measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate damage to the environment, including GHG emissions. The Draft Policy proposes to implement this requirement through MEPA reviews, by requiring project proponents for certain projects to analyze risks associated with certain climate change-related events.
The Draft Policy’s climate impact assessment requirement seeks to address both the impacts of a project on climate change and the impacts of climate change on a project. The Draft Policy focuses on three areas: (1) impacts associated with sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surge; (2) impacts associated with changes in precipitation; and (3) impacts associated with changes in temperature.
The Draft Policy’s proposed requirement to prepare a climate change impact assessment applies to projects that meet the threshold requirements for Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) under MEPA, including projects that receive a waiver to prepare an EIR, and for which an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) is filed on or after the Draft Policy’s effective date (which has not yet been specified). The ENF Certificate issued by the EEA Secretary will require preparation of an assessment of the project’s impacts on climate change and evaluation of appropriate adaptation measures. For existing projects that file a Notice of Project Change on or after the final policy’s effective date, the EEA Secretary will make a case-by-case determination on whether the project change must comply with the final policy.
As proposed, project proponents may request an exemption from the application of the Draft Policy to projects that meet the mandatory EIR thresholds in 301 CMR 11.03 but that will not contribute to or be impacted by climate change. The request should identify the basis for the exemption and provide supporting data to explain why the exemption is warranted.
The Draft Policy also provides general guidance for preparing climate impact assessments and a suggested list of mitigation, resiliency, and adaptation measures to be applied. After the assessment has been conducted, the draft Section 61 Findings in the EIR or Waiver should identify the adaptation and resiliency mitigation measures that will be adopted by the project proponent. To insure that mitigation measures are implemented, the project proponent will need to self-certify to the MEPA Office that all mitigation measures have been incorporated at the close of the project’s construction.