Massachusetts DEP Regulatory Efficiency Reforms Move Forward

by Pierce Atwood LLP

Launched in April 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP’s) Regulatory Reform Initiative is moving toward its goal of streamlining permitting and other processes, and boosting efficiency. This far reaching effort reflects the DEP’s desire to maintain high standards of environmental protection while lightening the regulatory burden on business. On November 2, 2012, eight attorneys from Pierce Atwood’s Environmental Practice Group met with Beth Card, an Assistant Commissioner at MassDEP, to discuss the progress and implications of the reform package.

Drawing on reform and efficiency ideas from hundreds of environmental advocates, business leaders, and municipal officials, MassDEP published its Final Action Plan for Regulatory Reform at Mass DEP in March 2012. A handful of the reforms did not require amendments to regulations, and thus these policies are nearly final and progress toward implementation is imminent. They include the following: 1) establishing a license term policy for licenses under the Public Water Front Act/Chapter 91; 2) improved targeting/prioritization of MassDEP’s Wetlands Program activities; 3) compliance improvements for sanitary groundwater discharge permittees; and 4) streamlining rideshare program reporting requirements.

The proposed regulatory reforms will be released for public comment by the end of 2012. The following is a sample of the proposed reforms that require regulation changes: 1) eliminate duplication for sewer extension permits (314 CMR 7.00) and improve operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment and indirect discharges (314 CMR 12.00); 2) air/asbestos streamlining and improvements (310 CMR 7.00); 3) accelerated reviews under the Public Waterfront Act/Chapter 91 (310 CMR 9.00); 4) wetlands program improvements (310 CMR 10.00); 5) permitting pathway for test-scale projects – including clean energy – under the Public Waterfront Act (310 CMR 9.00); 6) reforms and improvements for solid waste transfer stations and landfills (310 CMR 19.00); 7) improved waste site cleanup program (310 CMR 40.000); 8) expedited wetlands reviews for eco-restoration (310 CMR 10.00); 9) consolidated dredging permitting under chapter 91, Water Quality Certification and Wetlands (310 CMR 9.00, 314 CMR 9.00, 310 CMR 10.00); and 10) outsourced reviews and eliminated duplication of title 5 septic system oversight (310 CMR 15.00).

As the MassDEP’s Regulatory Reform Initiative moves forward, additional regulatory changes not published in the initial Final Action Plan continue to be added. These include expanded waste site cleanup improvements, a simplification of surface water discharge permit notices, and presumptive approvals for land application of sludge and septage.

Finally, MassDEP’s Reform Initiative will also include select statutory amendments. For example, 2012 amendments to the Wetlands Protection Act will streamline regulatory requirements for maintenance and repair of sewer lines, simplify abutter notification for long linear projects (like railway maintenance) and certain water-bound or water-abutting projects (such as aquaculture operations), and create a quick process for promulgating emergency regulations needed for road clearing and debris removal after storm events.

Shortly after the end of calendar year 2012, MassDEP aims to have all final regulation changes in place. However, the schedule for promulgation of final regulations will be largely dependent on the nature and extent of public comments. If you have any questions about these proposed regulatory changes, would like more information, or want to know how you can voice your opinion to MassDEP through public comment, please do not hesitate to contact Bill Taylor (207-791-1213 or, Matt Manahan (207-791-1189 or, or John Formella (603-373-2010 or


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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