Massachusetts Begins Mass Environmental Rollback
Wetlands, Wildlife and Water Management Protections May Be on Chopping Block
Boston — Governor Charlie Baker’s drive for wholesale repeal of regulations exceeding federal standards puts many of the Bay State’s most important environmental safeguards at risk, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has unveiled a preliminary plan to implement this directive which names 28 sets of regulation subject to revision or repeal but this list may grow substantially next year when another 58 regulations will become “sunset” candidates.
On March 31, 2015, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 562 directing all state agencies to review any regulations within their purview and to sunset all of them by March 31, 2016 unless they can demonstrate that the regulations are “essential to the health, safety, environment or welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents.” Even then, any remaining regulations must go through a cost/benefit analysis, may not exceed federal requirements and must not adversely affect the state’s “competitive environment.”
In a filing today with the DEP, PEER expressed concern about rules promulgated under three laws which may run afoul of Gov. Baker’s criteria:
- The Wetlands Protection Act, which is more stringent than the federal Clean Water Act;
- The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act which, by its definition, exceeds federal requirements, because it protects species that are rare in the Commonwealth; and
- The Water Management Act, which regulates the amount of water municipalities can use without drying up streams and aquifers.
“What makes Massachusetts special includes the quality of our wildlands, wildlife habitats and streams –the very items this Executive Order targets,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and a lawyer who formerly served in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Governor Baker has fired a starter pistol to trigger a race to the bottom, with Massachusetts vying to become the Mississippi of New England.”
The DEP has unveiled its “Work Plan for Executive Order 562” which lists 18 regulatory packages the agency is considering for potential amendments, including those covering groundwater discharges, air pollution, industrial wastewater and greenhouse gas emission. It also identifies ten sets of regulation for “potential rescission.” Another 58 regulations, including the Water Management Act, are on the chopping block this upcoming March.
“So far, the Executive Order has spawned a large paper exercise which has improved neither our environmental nor our business climate,” added Bennett, noting that Governor Baker has not elicited any evidence supporting his central premise that Massachusetts regulations are a measurable restraint on economic growth. “Good governance requires more than a one-size-fits-all prescription.”
The public comment period on Executive Order 562 concludes today.