State budget cuts are a boost to renewable energy projects
Under the caption of “thinking outside of the box” Mass regulators have developed a draft plan to streamline the permitting process for alternative energy projects. Facing severe budget cuts, reduced staff and with duties expanding to include covering new legislation such as the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Massachusetts Mercury Management Act, the Massachusetts DEP finds its resources stretched to the limit. DEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell has asked his staff to identify areas where reform to existing regulations, policies, and practices can save time and money and not affect the vital activities of the DEP in protecting the environment.
As a result, a draft proposal has been developed to identify certain areas of potential regulatory reform to assist in combining and streamlining the duties of the DEP. Increased efficiencies in the DEP’s overall operation will allow for the Patrick/Murray established timeline of 6 months for permit approval on renewal energy projects to be met. The draft proposal identifies 21 potential regulatory changes that the DEP hopes to implement in 2012. Several will directly address the development of renewal energy projects, specifically concerning the regulatory guidelines for wetlands, waterways, coastal areas and landfills:
- Allowing “Renewable Energy Projects” (projects eligible to receive Renewable Energy Credits) that are subject to the Wetlands Protection Act – generally those located in proximity to wetland areas or bodies of water – to benefit from a streamlined and more predictable permitting pathway that is already applied to other types of “limited projects” such as public road and drainage maintenance, landfill closures, maintenance of farms, construction and maintenance of utilities, and authorized responses to releases of hazardous materials;
- Allowing innovative clean energy projects proposed for coastal areas to move forward on a “pilot” basis that would set up a predictable review and approval pathway and bypass otherwise applicable regulatory schemes that might frustrate implementation of new technologies;
- Allowing permits-by-rule for renewable energy reuse projects at closed landfills, thereby reducing the burdens associated with gaining approval of such projects.
Identifying areas of reform is not a new concept for the DEP, having undertaken a similar initiative in 2007. The DEP believes this is the broadest based initiative for comprehensive regulatory reform in the agencies history. And by increasing efficiencies the DEP will be able to meet their goals for permit approval and further the development of renewal energy programs in Massachusetts. Renewal/alternative energy is a key component for the future economic development in the Commonwealth and allowing projects to be permitted, started and completed on time and on budget will certainly identify Massachusetts as the cradle for future renewable/alternative energy programs.
About the Author
Ray Roach is a Senior Vice President at WGA, with over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry. Throughout his career, he has worked with in various aspects of environmental risk and insurance including loss control, underwriting, marketing, product development, captives and alternative risk products.