June 10, 2020

MassDEP Posts Guidance on Public Involvement Plan Activities During State of Emergency

Holland & Knight Energy and Natural Resources Blog
Dianne R. Phillips
Energy and Natural Resources Blog

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's (MassDEP) Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup (BWSC) posted detailed guidance on June 3, 2020, regarding compliance with Public Involvement Plan (PIP) requirements under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP). The guidance addresses the three key areas impacted by the Massachusetts State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, namely public notice requirements, holding public meetings and establishing public repositories for sites designated as PIP sites under 310 CMR 40.1404.

Pursuant to 310 CMR 40.1405, PIP sites involve additional public involvement opportunities beyond the general requirements, including establishment of a detailed PIP after receipt of public comment and presentation at a public meeting. The goal of the PIP is to establish regular opportunities for public comment on various response actions required under the MCP to achieve a permanent solution (site closure). These required steps to make documents publicly available at a repository, often the local public library, and to hold public hearings have been impacted by the Commonwealth's State of Emergency.

Accordingly, MassDEP has identified suggestions designed to achieve a similar level of public participation. The guidance identifies additional measures to publicize remote public meetings, including providing notice to online community pages and posting at municipal websites, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. In addition, providing links to online meetings and dial-in numbers for those wishing to participate by phone and involving the petitioner(s) in developing a plan to reach the applicable community members. Lastly, in addition to mailing documents to a public repository that may be closed to the public, MassDEP encourages making documents available electronically on a site-specific website or through eDEP and offering to provide hard copies or a thumb drive in certain circumstances.

All of MassDEP's COVID-19 guidance for waste site cleanup activities can be found on its website. Updates are posted regularly.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that the subject matter discussed in these publications may change on a daily basis. Please contact your responsible Holland & Knight lawyer or the author of this blog for timely advice.

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