MassDEP Proposes New Greenhouse Gas Regulations Under Global Warming Solutions Act
By: Gregory J. May
On December 30, 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection ("MassDEP") published six proposed new regulations intended to limit or reduce the emission of greenhouse gases ("GHGs") in Massachusetts.
MassDEP is proposing the new regulations in response to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's (SJC) opinion in Kain v. MassDEP, 474 Mass. 278 (2016). In Kain, the SJC directed MassDEP to follow the "comprehensive framework" set forth in the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) to achieve by year 2050 a statewide GHG emissions limit that is at least 80% below the year 1990 level of GHG emissions. MassDEP's new proposals also respond to Governor Baker's Executive Order 569 directing state agencies to reduce their GHG emissions. MassDEP believes that the new regulations will result in a 7.2% reduction in total GHG emissions in Massachusetts.
SF6 Emission Reductions: 310 CMR 7.72 seeks to establish mass-based, annually declining aggregate limits on sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) emissions from gas-insulated switchgears (GIS) operated by two large utilities and otherwise limits SF6 emissions and leaks from utility-owned facilities. SF6 is a particular concern because it tends to remain in the atmosphere for a long time after release. GIS are used in high-voltage electrical systems to control the flow of electrical current, and SF6 is a good insulator for GIS use. However, GIS tend to leak SF6 through closures and joints.
Methane Emission Reductions from Natural Gas Distributions Mains and Services: 310 CMR 7.73 would establish mass-based, annually declining limits on methane emissions from mains and services for individual natural gas distribution operators working under a Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP). Methane is considered to be another potent GHG that can leak from aging gas distribution pipelines. Gas distribution operators in Massachusetts have submitted GSEPs to the Department of Public Utilities under which they (with few exceptions) have set out plans to repair or improve their distribution infrastructure by 2034. The proposed new regulation would require these operators to limit methane emissions from their infrastructure beginning in 2018. The limits applicable to a particular operator depend in part on the size of the existing infrastructure as well as the operator's expected growth over the next several years.
Reductions in GHG Emissions from Electricity Generators and Sellers: 310 CMR 7.74 and 7.75 seek to reduce GHG emissions to below 2013 emission levels by 2020. The proposed regulations also seek to meet the GWSA requirement that, by 2050, GHG emissions must be no more than 80% of the state's 1990 GHG emission levels. The proposed regulations would require retail sellers of electricity consumed in Massachusetts to purchase increasing amounts of clean energy for use by their customers and thus reduce the need to use fossil fuels. The regulations would also establish a declining annual aggregate mass-based limit on GHG emissions from large power plants that use fossil fuels. Interestingly, MassDEP is proposing a system of transferable Over Compliance Credits (OCCs) under which facilities that are under their emissions limits can trade OCCs to other facilities who are in excess of their emissions limit.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emission Reductions from State Transportation Sector Sources: 310 CMR 60.05 (as amended) would establish a mass-based, annually declining aggregate limit on CO2 emissions from mobile equipment owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (the largest public transit authority in Massachusetts).
Reduction in CO2 Emissions from Executive Branch Vehicle Fleet: 310 CMR 60.06 would set a mass-based, annually declining limit on CO2 emissions from the passenger vehicle fleet owned or leased by each executive agency in the Commonwealth.
MassDOT will hold public hearings on the proposed regulations as follows:
Monday, February 6, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM; 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM; and at 6:00 PM
MassDEP Boston Office, One Winter Street, Boston, MA
Monday, February 6, 2017 at 9:00 AM
MassDEP Southeast Regional Office, 20 Riverside Drive, Lakeville, MA
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM
MassDEP Central Regional Office, 8 New Bond Street, Worcester, MA
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 2:00 PM
Springfield Central Library, 220 State Street, Springfield, MA
Our environmental team at Nelson Mullins will continue to monitor the comment and hearing process on the proposed regulaitons and will provide updates as to any significant developments. If you have any questions, please contact any member of our team.
Wendy Wilkie Parker
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.