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Environmental Services

aerial plan viewThe primary duties of the MEPA/NEPA Unit consist of project review pursuant to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The MEPA/NEPA Unit is also responsible for completing environmental design reviews throughout the various design stages. The Unit is consulted early in the preliminary design process to identify a project’s potential impacts to environmental resources and guides the designers through its permitting requirements. The initial 25% design review includes the review of interactive GIS-based maps, coordination with other environmental units and careful analysis of the project design as it relates to applicable environmental laws and regulations.

The MEPA Office is an agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is part of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). MEPA has outlined review thresholds which, if exceeded, trigger the preparation of documents (ENF/EIR) which study the environmental consequences of a project requiring them to take all feasible measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate damage to the environment.

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 was enacted:

To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality. (Sec. 2 [42 USC § 4321].)

Projects involving any federal action (funding, oversight, etc.) require oversight of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under NEPA. A programmatic agreement exists between the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Division (formerly the Massachusetts Highway Department) and FHWA to concur in advance that projects satisfying specific conditions will not result in significant social, economic and environmental impacts and are, therefore, categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The MEPA/NEPA Unit makes every effort to identify any potential issues that may arise during the design process with regards to permitting and inter-agency coordination. A proactive approach to identifying and addressing environmental issues early on in the design stage is needed to ensure scheduled advertising and construction dates are met. The cooperation of the designers and their ability to fully execute the Early Environmental Coordination Process prior to the 25% design stage helps the design process move fluidly from the Project Initiation stage (PIF) to a Final PS&E.

The Early Environmental Coordination Checklist, blank CE forms, example ENF's and early coordination letters can be found on the Environmental Publications.

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