August 6th, 2007
Patrick Moves to Curtail Citizen Rights to Appeal DEP Decisions
by John Andrews, MCHC
The Patrick Administration is attempting to eliminate a longstanding public right to challenge bad decisions made by the Department of Environmental Protection. Proposed regulatory changes would eliminate the ten-citizen appeal that has been vital to allowing community voices to be heard when well-connected development interests have succeeded in pressuring state agencies into unwise approval of their development schemes. The changes would allow DEP to review its own rulings, thus avoiding any independent review. It would also limit administrative hearings to a single day, regardless of how complicated the case may be.
According to the environmental group Clean Water Action “This proposal has the potential to impact critical wildlife habitat, water quality in streams and ponds, drinking water supplies and much more. It would also set a harmful precedent by moving things in the wrong direction – reducing the role for concerned citizens in protecting our environment.”
Governor Patrick enlisted many environmentally-minded citizens in his election campaign by promising a more open and responsive government. But soon after taking office, Patrick appointed two real estate insiders to key regulatory posts in his Administration. When citizens won a lawsuit forcing the DEP to follow the legal permitting procedures for the NorthPoint project in Cambridge, Patrick moved quickly to introduce legislation to take away the legal rights thus bestowed.
The Administration’s tilt toward empowerment of the Beacon Hill real estate lobby has dismayed community activists who had been encouraged by the “Together We Can” rhetoric that Patrick employed during his campaign. Many had defended Patrick when his history as a corporate apologist for the predatory lender Ameriquest had surfaced in the press.
DEP is accepting comments on their regulatory proposals until August 13. To submit a comment by email click here http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2155/t/206/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=12263
For further information, see the website of Clean Water Action http://www.cleanwateraction.org/ma/protectwaters.html.