Environmental Justice Protocols and Resources (2023)

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  • This page, Environmental Justice Protocols and Resources, is offered by
  • Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office

This page provides general guidance and resources for projects proposed near environmental justice populations.

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Table of Contents

Environmental Justice (EJ) Protocols

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The MEPA Office has finalized twoMEPA Environmental Justice Protocolswith effective dates of January 1, 2022. The protocols address the new public involvement and analysis requirements for projects undergoing MEPA review asset forth in: (i) Sections 58 and 60 ofChapter 8 of the Acts of 2021: An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (the “Climate Roadmap Act” or “the Act”); and the 2021 update to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)Environmental Justice Policy(the “2021 EJ Policy”).

  • FINAL MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for Environmental Justice Populations (effective date of January 1, 2022)
  • FINAL MEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts on Environmental Justice Populations (effective date of January 1, 2022)

These protocols supplement amendments toMEPAregulationsat 301 CMR 11.00, which were promulgated on December 24, 2021.

To determine the applicability of the new EJ protocols, the project must identify its location relative to mapped EJ populations. The EJ Maps Viewer, referenced in the MEPA EJ protocols, may beviewed here.Future updates to the EJ Maps Viewer will be publicized through the Environmental Monitor and this webpage.

Additional Resources for Environmental Justice (EJ) Protocols

Open file for •Flow chart to determine the applicability of new EJ protocols

EIR Requirement

Under the Act, any project that contains an EJ Population (in whole or in part) within the “Designated Geographic Area” (DGA) of the project siteis required to submit an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in accordance with 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b). In most cases, the DGA willencompass a 1-mile radius of the project site. However, if the project is anticipated to exceed MEPA review thresholds at 301 CMR 11.03(8)(a)-(b) or generate 150 or more New adt of diesel vehicle traffic over a duration of 1 year or more, excluding public transit trips, then the DGA will encompass a 5-mile radius of the project site. The DGA should be drawn from the outermost limits of work.

As with other mandatory EIR projects, the MEPA review process typically begins with the filing of an Environmental Notification Form (ENF), which is reviewed over a 30-day period that includes a 20-day public comment period. The Secretary would then issue a Scope for a Draft EIR, and subsequently, a Final EIR, each of which is reviewed over a 37-day period that includes a 30-day public comment period. With the exception of the Final EIR, comment periods may be extended upon consent of the Proponent or on account of the Proponent’s failure to meet circulation or public notice requirements. In total, the typical MEPA review process involves at least three steps (ENF, Draft EIR, and Final EIR).

Projects required to submit an EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b) may request that MEPA review of the project be expedited (shortened) from the typical 3-step review process described above. Specifically, the project may request that the Secretary allow a Single EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(8) or a “Rollover” EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(13), as further described below. However, these projects are not eligible to seek a Full Waiver from the requirement to file an EIR. Projects seeking expedited treatment must submit an Expanded ENF (EENF) in lieu of the normal ENF, and must provide advance notification of the project as explained in the Advance Notification section below.

If a Single EIR is requested, the initial MEPA filing must contain, in addition to the EENF and other required content, a baseline assessment of existing conditions within the identified EJ populations, in accordance with 301 CMR 11.07(6)(n)1. The methodology for performing the baseline assessment is described in Part II of the MEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts.

If a Rollover EIR is requested, the initial MEPA filing must contain, in addition to the EENF and other required content, both the baseline assessment and an assessment of project impacts on EJ populations in accordance with 301 CMR 11.07(6)(n)1.-4., and must demonstrate that the project will not materially exacerbate any existing unfair or inequitable Environmental Burden and related public health consequences impacting an EJ population, and will not result in a disproportionate adverse effect or increased climate change effects on an EJ population. The methodology for performing this assessment is described in Parts II-IV of the MEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts. If requesting a Rollover EIR, the EENF must be accompanied by a Proposed EIR, which must be submitted to the MEPA Office as a separate and stand-alone document.

The DPH EJ Tool and US EPA EJ Screen, which are referenced in the MEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts on Environmental Justice Populations, are publicly available mapping tools that serve as resources in conducting the baseline assessment of existing conditions within identified EJ populations.

Additional Resources for EIR Requirement

Open file for •Flow chart illustrating the Single or Rollover EIR process for projects that have EJ Populations located within the DGA

Open file for •Guide to preparing an ENF

Open file for •Guide to preparing an EIR

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EJ Outreach and Engagement

Any project that contains an EJ Population (in whole or in part) within the DGAof the project site, except a project consisting of one single family home,is required to undertake measures to promote public involvement through meaningful community outreach and engagement of EJ populations. As noted, the DGA should be drawn from the outermost limits of work.

Community outreach and engagement activities may be tailored to the nature and complexity of the project, as well as the characteristics of the identified EJ populations around the project site. Section II.B of the MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for EJ Populations provides more guidance, including best practices to be followed.

For certain projects, advance notification of the project must be provided prior to filing, as described in the Advanced Notification section below. This advanced notification is a minimum requirement, and all projects are expected to undertake additional measures to promote public involvement through meaningful community outreach and engagement.

Advanced Notification

Must occur no less than 45 days, and no more than 90 days, prior to filing with MEPA.

Consistent with 301 CMR 11.05(4), any project that (i) meets or exceeds mandatory EIR thresholds, or (ii) will seek to avail itself of expedited review procedures under 301 CMR 11.06(8) and (13), must provide advance notification of the project to an “EJ Reference List” provided by the MEPA Office no less than 45 days, and no more than 90 days, prior to filing. The EJ Reference List consists of community-based organizations (CBOs) and tribes/indigenous organizations that can provide a resource in conducting outreach and community engagement activities. To request an EJ Reference List, please emailMEPA-EJ@mass.govwith the project name, address, and a list ofall municipalities located within the DGA around the project site.

The Advanced Notification shall take the form of the "Environmental Justice Screening Form,” which must be translated into all applicable languages as discussed in the Language Translation and Interpretation section below. The project name, location, and succinct (3-4 sentence) description of the project should be included in the body of the email along with the following verbiage:

Community-based organizations and tribal organizations are receiving this notification in accordance with the MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for Environmental Justice Populations, which took effect on January 1, 2022. More information is available on theMEPA website.

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Refer to Section II.A of the MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for additional guidance on providing advance notification of the project.

NOTE: If more than 90 days has elapsed since the initial Advanced Notification has been distributed to the EJ Reference List and the MEPA filing has not been submitted, the Proponent will be required to distribute a second Advanced Notification to the EJ Reference List (after expiration of the initial 90-day period) no less than 30 days, and no more than 90 days, prior to the new anticipated filing date. If more than 90 days elapses after the second Advanced Notification is distributed, then the notification will be deemed to have lapsed and will no longer be valid. Accordingly, any future Advanced Notifications to the EJ Reference List must comply with the initial requirement to distribute no less than 45 days, and no more than 90 days, prior to filing the project with the MEPA Office. Any EJ Screening Form sent after the expiration of the prior 90 day period should be revised to reflect the new anticipated date of filing with the MEPA Office.

Additional Resources for Advanced Notification

Open file for •Environmental Justice Screening Forms (including translations)

Language Translation and Interpretation

Languages for oral interpretation and written translation of materials should be identified using the "Languages Spoken in Massachusetts" tab of theEJ Maps Viewer. At a minimum, any languages identified as spoken by 5 percent or more of residents who identify as not speaking English “very well” (i.e., have limited English proficiency (LEP)) should be identified for each census tract located in whole or in part within the designated geographic area (DGA) for the project.As a best practice, the Proponent should consult with the local Board of Health and School District to identify additional languages that may be appropriate to include, including additional dialects like Portuguese/Cape Verdean Creole. The proponent must seek specific approval from the MEPA Office and the EEA EJ Director if it wishes to decrease the number of languages used to provide translation services.

If EJ populations are located within the DGA for the project and languages are identified within that DGA, then the project must comply with all requirements in MEPA protocols related to language services, as further explained in this guidance. If EJ populations are not located within the DGA and languages are identified, then the proponent, in consultation with the assigned MEPA analyst, must coordinate the offer or provision of language services for the MEPA site visit/remote consultation session. The proponent is encouraged to incorporate language services into any other outreach and community engagement activities conducted for the project.

Written translation is required, at a minimum, for the EJ Screening Form and notice of the MEPA site visit/remote consultation session. The proponent is encouraged to develop translated fact sheets and other outreach materials as part of its community engagement activities. Note that the MEPA Forms page also contains translated templates of newspaper notices to encourage the use of alternative media outlies such as community or ethnic newspapers.

For community meetings and the MEPA site visit/remote consultation session, the proponent may require that requests for oral interpretation be made in advance with sufficient time to allow for cancellation of the service prior to the meeting. In this case, the notice of the meeting must include a translated offer to provide oral interpretation services with instructions on how and when to request the service. If the need for advance request results in an unreasonable shortening of the period of notice of the meeting before an interpretation request can be made (e.g., the meeting is noticed for 10 days later but a request for interpretation must be made at least 7 days in advance), then it is the expectation of the MEPA Office that the comment period for applicable MEPA filings will be extended to accommodate a reasonable time for notice to LEP populations. In addition, if the EEA EJ Mapper indicates that a particular language is spoken by more than 10% of LEP residents in any census tract located in whole or in part within the DGA, it is recommended that the proponent arrange for an oral interpreter to be present at the meeting, without the need for advance requests.

Please refer to Part II of the MEPA Public Involvement Protocol for Environmental Justice Populations for additional guidance on language services.

Additional Resources for Language Translation and Interpretation

Climate Change

Any project required to submit an EIR under 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b) must assess climate change effects on EJ populations, in accordance with theMEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts. The assessment must be conducted consistently with the MEPA Interim Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency and the output report generated from the Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool.

Projects that do not exceed mandatory EIR thresholds, but are required to prepare an EIR solely due to the application of 301 CMR 11.06(7)(b), must conduct a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions analysis of stationary sources if the project is expected to generate 2,000 tons per year (tpy) of GHG (CO2) emissions from conditioned spaces that are likely to be used or occupied by EJ populations.The analysis must be conducted consistently with the 2010 MEPA GHG Policy and Protocol (“2010 GHG Policy”). Consistent with prior practice, all projects that exceed mandatory EIR thresholds remain subject to the 2010 GHG Policy.

The estimate of GHG emissions can be generated using the GHGEmissions Footprint Estimation Tool. Please reference the results of the tool in the MEPA filing.

Please refer to Part IV of theMEPA Interim Protocol for Analysis of Project Impacts for additional guidance on preparing a climate change assessment in relation to EJ populations.

Additional Resources for Climate Change

Open file for •Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool

Open file for •MEPA Interim Protocol on Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency (Effective Oct. 1, 2021)

Open file for •MEPA Greenhouse Gas Policy and Protocol (effective May 5, 2010)

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Joint MEPA-EJ Prefiling Meetings

Proponents can schedule a joint pre-filing meeting with the MEPA Office and EEA's EJ Office to discuss an upcoming project. The joint MEPA-EJ prefiling consultations are scheduled on Thursdays and are intended for complex projects, where the proponent seeks specific guidance on community engagement strategies or the scope of analysis of impacts on EJ communities.

Prefiling meetings are not required by the new MEPA EJ protocols effective January 1, 2022. If you are seeking general information on MEPA procedures, please book time with the MEPA Office on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Key Actions for Joint MEPA-EJ Prefiling Meetings

Schedule a Pre-Filing Meeting

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FAQs

What is environmental justice in your own words? ›

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

What are the two main types of justice in environmental justice? ›

Professor Alice Kaswan organized environmental justice into two categories: distributive justice and political justice.

What is environmental justice and why should you care about it? ›

“Environmental Justice” is the concept that all people - regardless of race, color, national origin, or income - should receive fair treatment and have meaningful involvement with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

What is an example of an environmental justice issue? ›

Environmental justice issues and examples include inadequate access to healthy food, inadequate transportation, air and water pollution, and unsafe homes.

What are the causes of environmental justice? ›

Some of the specific causes of environmental injustice include:
  • Intentional and unintentional racism/racial discrimination.
  • Alienating low-income community members.
  • Failing to represent all groups and government.
  • Industrialization.
  • Unchecked capitalism.
  • Discriminatory siting.
  • Misguided regulatory policy.
  • Segregation.

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