New MEPA Regulations

The Executive Office of Environmental Affairs issued new MEPA regulations on July 1, 1998. MEPA, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, allows the Secretary of Environ- mental Affairs to review projects that are funded, licensed or permitted by state agencies, in order to determine whether an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) should be written. Since historic and archaeological resources are an integral part of the environment, the new MEPA regulations are of interest to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and readers of the Preservation Advocate.

The MEPA regulations establish project thresholds for two categories: projects that categorically require the filing of an Environmental Notification Form (ENF); and projects categorically required to file an ENF and a mandatory EIR. Projects that do not meet any of these thresholds need not file an ENF with MEPA. However, MEPA’s thresholds do not apply to MHC’s review of state funded or licensed projects. In general, all projects that require a permit, license or funding from any state agency must file a Project Notification Form (PNF) with the MHC, regardless of whether they trigger a MEPA threshold.

MEPA’s new regulations include a categorical threshold concerning historic and archaeological resources (301 CMR 11.03 (10)) and the filing of an ENF. If a project involves “(1) the demolition of all or any exterior part of any Historic Structure listed in or located in any Historic District listed in the State Register of Historic Places or the Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth; or (2) destruction of all or part of any Archaeological Site listed in the State Register of Historic Places or the Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth,” an ENF must be filed, “unless the project is subject to a determination of No Adverse Effect by the Massachusetts Historical Commission or is consistent with a Memorandum of Agreement with the Massachusetts Historical Commission that has been the subject of public notice and comment.”

This threshold is likely to result in more thoughtful review of projects that impact structures and sites that are in MHC’s Inventory, but not yet listed in the National or State Register.

MEPA has also greatly revised its ENF form. For instance, the section of the ENF concerning historic and archaeological impacts now asks for a description of the impacts, alternative plans or designs to avoid or minimize the impacts, and mitigation measures.

For copies of or additional information about the new MEPA regulations and ENF form, you may visit their web site at www.mass.gov/envir/mepa/index.htm or contact the MEPA Office at 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114, 617-626-1020.