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For Immediate Release: Apr 18, 2002
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

POLLUTION PROTECTION LAGGING IN MASSACHUSETTS

Poor Federal Oversight of Mass. DEP


Boston - The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not meeting its obligations to enforce essential pollution protection measures for its citizens, according to a filing today by the New England chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group is challenging a draft contract outlining $10 million in federal aid to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Weak oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) perpetuates failures.

Working with concerned federal and state employees, New England PEER catalogued the principal problems plaguing Massachusetts environmental oversight, including:

  • The safety of eating fish has not been assessed in more than three-quarters of all rivers and lakes. Most lakes also lack ratings for swimming, and the majority of marine waters were not rated for aquatic life support;
  • More than two-thirds of all factories, power-plants and other major sources of air pollution in Massachusetts still do not have permits required under the Clean Air Act, one of the lowest rates in the nation; and
  • Increasing reliance by the DEP on vague "innovative" approaches lacking accountability measures forces cutbacks in traditional enforcement, such as inspection of sewage treatment plants.

In addition, the New England PEER filing cites the absence of whistleblower protection for state environmental specialists, reliance on unmonitored industry waste clean-up inspectors and ineffective wetland protections.

"EPA and Massachusetts DEP are co-dependents in a deeply dysfunctional relationship," commented New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney and former EPA employee. "The two agencies are engaged in an elaborate minuet to dance around the most basic regulatory deficiencies."

The regional office of EPA and the Massachusetts DEP have a written agreement outlining how the state oversees environmental regulation. The contract, known as a Performance Partnership Agreement (PPA), details environmental priorities and how the two entities will work together in permitting, enforcement, and outreach to the regulated community. More than $10 million in grant money is given in conjunction with the PPA.

Consequently, the PPA contains an important portion of the environmental protection budget and blueprint for the state. The New England PEER filing seeks amendments to the Massachusetts PPA.

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A copy of the New England PEER filing on the Massachusetts performance Partnership Agreement is posted at:

Partnership Agreement