Major Massachusetts Developments Must Estimate GHG Emissions and Offer Mitigation Plan

Date: 25 Jun 2007 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In late April 2007, a new policy was put in place in Massachusetts that requires certain developers to "quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by proposed projects and identify measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate such emissions" The policy applies to developments requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that need an air quality permit, receive state funding or generate a significant number of new vehicle trips.

The new policy requires developers to estimate the increases in six pollutants cited by the Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). The policy directive outlines a number of ways that developers could go about mitigating emissions. Some examples: green building standards, use of clean and alternative fuels, on-site renewable energy for heat and power, and shuttle or bus services (using alternative fuels).

The policy kicks in if an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required for the project and any of the following are true:

1. The Commonwealth or a state agency is the proponent; 2. The Commonwealth or a state agency is providing financial assistance; 3. The project is privately funded, but requires an air quality permit from the Department of Environmental Protection; 4. The project is privately funded, but will generate 3,000 or more new vehicle trips per day for office projects; 6,000 or more vehicle trips per day for mixed use projects that are 25 percent office space; or 10,000 vehicle trips per day for other projects.

Democratic Energy notes that the policy is required if the project receives financial assistance from the Commonwealth or from a state agency. This is particularly interesting and shows that the Commonwealth is conscious that state financial support should not result in increased GHG emissions in the state.

Case in point: The environmental impact reports filed for the three proposed big box stores in Hadley, Massachusetts indicate that the Wal-Mart Supercenter will generate 9,434 trips per day at peak; the Home Depot project will generate 12,858 trips at peak; and the Lowe’s project will generate 8,676 trips during peak traffic. The Home Depot project is the only one that would have qualified under the vehicle trips criteria of the new law.

If the developer does not provide a sufficient mitigation plan, the State could elect to stop the development. Most importantly, this law gives community members another way to gauge the negative impacts that a large development could have on their community.

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office has convened an advisory committee of agency officials, private air quality consultants, and other stakeholders to develop a standardized protocol for the EIR emissions analysis. The analysis will include both "direct" GHG emissions (e.g., stack and fugitive emissions from the proposed operation) and "indirect" emissions (e.g., emissions from vehicles driven by employees and generating plants supplying electricity to the proposed operation). The advisory committee is expected to complete action on the protocol so that it can be available for public notice by July 1,2007.


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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.