Beveridge & Diamond
 

EEA Solicits Comments on MEPA Greenhouse Gas Policy

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., July 17, 2007

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (now known as EEA) has released for public comment a draft greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions policy for projects undergoing Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review.  The draft policy incorporates substantive GHG evaluation requirements for several classes of projects and expectations of GHG project mitigation.  Comments on the draft policy are due at EEA by no later than August 10, 2007.

The draft policy will apply to MEPA project proponents who are required to complete an environmental impact report and where the proposed project (i) is undertaken by the Commonwealth or a state agency, (ii) will receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth or a state agency, (iii) requires any air quality permit from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), or (iv) will generate 3,000 or more new vehicle trips per day for office projects, 6,000 or more new vehicle trips per day for mixed projects that are 25% or more office space, or 10,000 or more new vehicle trips per day for other projects.

If a project meets these thresholds, the draft policy states that EEA will require the project proponent to quantify GHG emissions from three separate sources: direct emissions from stationary sources, indirect emissions from energy consumption, and indirect emissions from traffic generation and associated fuel combustion.  On a case by case basis, EEA may require additional emissions evaluations, such as for landfills that emit methane.  No particular quantification models are required, although several are recommended. 

Following the quantification of GHG emissions, the draft policy calls for an alternatives analysis and a calculation of reductions in GHG emissions from proposed mitigation to be employed by the project proponent in each of the three quantified source categories.  Proponents will be expected to compare total baseline emissions to each of the alternatives discussed in the three source categories, to explain which alternatives are being rejected, and the reasons for the rejections.

EEA indicates that its policy is to encourage proponents to avoid or minimize GHG emissions at the project site, although the agency will be receptive to off-site offset proposals where on-site avoidance or minimization strategies are not feasible.  EEA also allows that it will consider on a case-by-case basis proposals to opt-out of the quantification analysis where a proponent commits in advance to exceptional measures, presumably related to GHG avoidance or minimization.

For further information on this development, or for assistance in preparing comments on the draft policy, please contact Stephen Richmond at srichmond@bdlaw.com.