On February 15, 2024, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) released Massachusetts' inaugural Environmental Justice Strategy ("EJ Strategy"), a comprehensive set of initiatives and programs which aims to combat environmental inequities and reverse the effects of environmental injustice in historically marginalized communities across the state. The 182-page document, in development since October 2022, is a high-level roadmap for statewide EJ action plans created in response to Massachusetts' Environmental Justice Policy (last updated in 2021), which directed all EEA agencies to develop specific strategies to proactively promote environmental justice. The EJ Strategy will be revisited every three years, with annual progress reports in the interim.

The EJ Strategy explains how EEA's agencies plan to incorporate industry-specific environmental justice policies. Some common threads across EEA's major departments and offices include: new and improved incentive structures for incorporating environmental justice criteria into project funding and grant awards; equitable policies prioritizing EJ populations in Brownfields remediation and redevelopment programs; and increased integration of EJ communities in outreach, environmental monitoring, and public engagement.

Many of the programs described in the EJ Strategy either formalize previously existing policies or introduce new strategies that are still in the early stages of implementation. For example, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office strategy describes initiatives already implemented (including enhanced public involvement requirements and enhanced environmental impact analyses for projects undergoing MEPA review and located near EJ populations) as well as additional updates under consideration (focused analysis of the urban heat island effect, revision of the standards for fail-safe review, and revision of the Environmental Notification Form requirements). The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB)'s EJ Strategy summarizes its enhanced public participation procedures for projects that meet certain environmental impact thresholds, including for project sites located within one mile of an EJ population. Various other EEA agencies, departments, and offices published individual EJ Strategies delineating EJ policies related to coastal zone management, toxics use reduction assistance, fish and game practices, agricultural resource management, public utilities, clean energy, and environmental conservation.

Companies that do business near or otherwise serve EJ communities should consider how these new statewide strategies may affect existing projects and future interactions with the agencies and departments of EEA and should be on the lookout for regulatory, policy and guidance changes that may arise from the implementation of these strategies. One important aspect to consider will be how to incorporate EJ-focused grant incentives and public involvement requirements into future project proposals and timelines in EJ neighborhoods.

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