Have You Heard About the CIA?

Oh, not the Central Intelligence Agency! Have you heard about the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) new plan to roll Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) into air permit application requirements? In March 2021, Governor Charlie Baker signed Chapter 8 of the Acts of 2021, An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. This legislation requires MassDEP to:

  • Propose regulations for integrating CIA into MassDEP’s air permit review and approval process for Comprehensive Plan Approval (CPA) applications as well as Non-Major CPAs within a certain distance from a designated Environmental Justice (EJ) community;
  • Seek public comment on this; and
  • Complete these tasks within 18 months of the signed legislation’s June 2021 effective date (or by late December 2022).

Therefore, by the end of this year we should expect to see MassDEP’s proposed regulations open for public comment.

What is a CIA?

CIA is the process for evaluating the total burden from chemical and non-chemical stressors across an affected community. A CIA will require air dispersion modeling of existing facility emissions combined with the proposed emissions from a new project. The aggregate emissions will be compared to National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and risk management criteria.

MassDEP is currently developing a list of Toxic Air Pollutants that will need to be modeled in addition to Criteria Pollutants if the project has the potential to emit the listed chemicals. Modeling of Criteria Pollutants will need to include emissions from the entire facility in addition to emissions from nearby permitted air sources and background emissions data from the MassDEP air monitoring network. MassDEP is also considering using lower pollutant allowable levels than those listed in the NAAQS for facilities within or near an EJ population.

When modeling the newly designated Toxic Air Pollutants, initial screening for combined toxics will be compared to cumulative risk management criteria for excess lifetime cancer risk and if emissions do not pass screening thresholds then a more detailed risk characterization will be done. This is expected to be similar to what the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Protection (NHDES) already requires.

How Does This Affect my Project Timeline?

A facility will be required to engage MassDEP and the community stakeholders at least 60 days prior to filing an air permit application. It would be beneficial for a facility to first conduct the CIA to best understand the impacts the anticipated project may have on the surrounding community in advance of engaging with MassDEP and the community stakeholders. Once the CIA is complete and notification has been made to the proper parties, then the facility would file the air permit application along with the CIA to MassDEP no sooner than 60 days from the date of notification.

MassDEP is expecting to propose an increase to the public comment period during the application review process from 30 days to 60 days. For complex projects with potentially significant impacts on surrounding EJ communities, the permitting process may be extended six months to a year from what it is currently.

How Can Capaccio Help?

Navigation through these new regulations requires an understanding of the process, the sensitive nature of presentation to the public, a strong repertoire with MassDEP representatives, and a strategic plan. Capaccio has licensed Professional Engineers and air permitting experts that are staying on top of these regulations and helping facilities strategize on possible future growth of production and facility expansion. We can guide you through the CIA and air permitting process with the help of our dedicated and experienced team focused on ensuring that the industry and environment prosper.