Mass Environmental Policy Act allows for community stakeholder input
It took 19 years! Finally, Environmental Justice (EJ) policy and legislation are a reality in Massachusetts because of the work beun in 2002 by organizations like SAFE and our allies. On March 26, 2021, Gov. Baker signed EJ into legislation as part of our latest climate bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. We celebrated!
As a result of that legislation, community stakeholders have expanded rights regarding having input into development projects that impact our EJ communities. One such project is Crowley Wind Services’ development of the Salem port. Crowley has applied for approvals to begin construction at the port. SAFE is now engaged in Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review of their application. For the November 23 deadline, we submitted a letter with our comments to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), which oversees MEPA.
“Environmental justice is based on the principle that all people have a right to be protected from environmental hazards and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment regardless of race, color, national origin, income, or English language proficiency.
Now that we are in the MEPA process, we will keep the community up-to-date on our responses to all of Crowley’s proposals to the state and to our city. And now that we are getting the hang of MEPA comments, we promise to offer everyone opportunities to learn more and to keep you updated on opportunities to comment in the future.
Learn More about Environmental Justice
Not clear on EJ? Here’s our state’s description: “Environmental justice is based on the principle that all people have a right to be protected from environmental hazards and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment regardless of race, color, national origin, income, or English language proficiency. Environmental justice is the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people and communities with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of energy, climate change, and environmental laws, regulations, and policies and the equitable distribution of energy and environmental benefits and burdens.”
How do municipalities or specific neighborhoods become designated as EJ? State policy states that “EJ populations are those segments of the population that EEA has determined to be most at risk of being unaware of or unable to participate in environmental decision-making or to gain access to state environmental resources, or are especially vulnerable. Those populations must meet certain demographic criteria.
To find out how Salem compares to other EJ communities, take a look at these state maps. They show all of the Commonwealth’s municipalities, designating why some neighborhoods are EJ populations.
SAFE believes strongly that the new wind port must take into account environmental justice. Look for future blogposts that address those concerns.