Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Releases Cumulative Impact Analysis Regulations for Air Quality Permitting

In the 2021 Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (Next Generation Roadmap Act), the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) was directed to incorporate cumulative impact analysis into its review of applications for certain types of air permitting. Through public engagement and the proposal of draft regulations for cumulative impact analysis, with a particular focus on impacts to environmental justice communities, MassDEP was obligated to propose and implement new regulations within 18 months of the Act’s effective date in June 2021. MassDEP issued draft regulations in December 2022 and final regulations in March 2024. The cumulative impact analysis (CIA) regulations apply to comprehensive plan applications (CPAs) for facilities located in or near environmental justice (EJ) populations and will be effective for applications submitted to MassDEP on or after July 1, 2024.

The CIA regulations require enhanced public outreach to and involvement of EJ populations, comprehensive assessment of existing community conditions, as well as analyzing the potential for the project to exacerbate disproportionate impacts on EJ populations through a cumulative impact analysis.

Alongside the promulgation of final regulations in March 2024, MassDEP has also developed guidance documents and tools to help permit applicants and EJ populations better understand and comply with the new regulations requiring cumulative impact analysis in air permitting applications. Resources relevant to the cumulative impact analysis regulations include:

Parallel to MassDEP’s cumulative impact analysis regulations, the 2021 Next Generation Roadmap Act also directed the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office to develop a new set of regulations by December 2021 that would require applicants to: submit an environmental impact report for any project near EJ populations that is likely to cause damage to the environment; assess the potential of existing unfair or inequitable burden and public health consequences borne by nearby EJ populations; and analyze how the proposed project might exacerbate disproportionate harms on nearby EJ populations. These regulations were issued by the MEPA office in December 2021, with additional amendments in January 2023.

MassDEP will be hosting webinars on April 30th, 2024, and May 2, 2024, to review their new regulations requiring a cumulative impact analysis for comprehensive plan applications for facilities located in or near environmental justice populations. The webinars will also give an overview of relevant guidance documents and tools for data analysis, including the cumulative impact analysis tool and air toxics risk screening tool, both mentioned above.

MassDEP Webinar Registration Links: Tuesday April 30th 9-11AM or Thursday, May 2nd from 6-8PM. For more information, please contact Isabella Gambill.

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