The Country’s First Comprehensive Ocean Management Plan
Massachusetts recently unveiled proposed regulations to implement the country’s first comprehensive ocean management plan. Future development projects in Massachusetts Marine waters will soon have another set of regulatory requirements to navigate.
The proposed regulations implement both the Massachusetts Oceans Act of 2008 and the resulting 2009 Ocean Management Plan. The core of the program is a set of maps, now available online, which establish various maritime zones off the Massachusetts coast. These include zones where wind development is preferred and water dependent use areas where new development is discouraged.
The regulations bring welcomed clarity to the ocean zoning program and specify the steps that project proponents will need to go through to assure compliance with the Plan. Moreover, the regulations confirm that only projects that trigger an environmental impact report requirement under MEPA are subject to the new regulations. The proposed regulations also clarify how the Plan and regulations affect other state permits and licenses.
However, the draft regulations also leave some important questions unanswered and may inadvertently discourage meritorious offshore wind projects. For example, the regulations do not provide any criteria or guidance on the assessment of ocean development mitigation fees, mandated by the Oceans Act. Also, while the regulations codify the Wind Energy Areas where wind projects are presumptively allowed, they do not specify how the determination whether a proposed project provides “economic benefit” to the host community will be made.
Look for the promulgation of final regulations later this year.
Bill specializes in environmental, energy, and municipal law at Anderson & Kreiger, and is recognized as a leading environmental lawyer by Chambers USA and Best Lawyers in America.
Posted In: Ocean Management