…Oh, Boston you’re my home.

Since 1997, Red Sox Nation has celebrated home victories with the post-game anthem “Dirty Water,” the 1966 cynical paean to the Charles River and Boston Harbor.  “Well, I love that dirty water; Oh, Boston you’re my home.”

Beginning in the 1800’s, the Charles River and Boston Harbor were polluted by domestic, municipal and industrial wastes.  Raw sewage, chemical discharges, and leaching riverbank landfills turned the river into a toxic sluiceway flowing into the nastiest harbor in the world.
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A Call To Action

Each September through November, volunteers participate in COASTSWEEP, a state-wide coastal cleanup of marine debris.  Sponsored by MassCZM in coordination with the Ocean Conservatory’s International Coastal Cleanup, individuals, families, organizations and companies collect and catalogue the waste defiling our beaches and waterways, identify the sources of the debris, and act to stop ocean dumping.  Our clients spend billions to build homes and businesses and to recreate in the coastal zone that is under constant attack from trash, primarily from land-based sources (washed out to sea by rivers, streams and storm drains).  Plastics pose the greatest risk to marine wildlife (seabirds and turtles).  Marine debris damages the health and safety, economics, and aesthetics of those who live, work and play along Massachusetts’ 1,500 miles of coastline.

We shouldn’t wait for the islands of ocean garbage to landfall; or for syringes, feces and nasty floatables to wash up on our beaches (as happened in Quincy prompting the cleanup of Boston Harbor).  We encourage our clients, consultants and friends to join in an important opportunity to make a difference by cleaning up fishing nets, lines, traps and buoys, plastic bags, and consumer products that desecrate our marine environment.  To learn more about eye-opening marine debris statistics and oddities, cleanup events, and organizing, joining or sponsoring a team, go to MassCZM’s COASTSWEEP site.

Embrace your stewardship!

Environmental Law Update – Fall 2015

In our Spring 2015 Environmental Law Update we predicted that there would be judicial and legislative challenges to the EPA and Army Corps’ new Clean Water Rule expanding the scope of jurisdictional waters of the United States.  The Rule seeks to codify existing criteria that EPA and the Corps have been applying on a case-by-case basis using the three alternative tests announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Rapanos v. United StatesEven before the Rule was to take effect on August 28, 2015, 27 states filed federal lawsuits challenging the regulation.

On October 9, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed the Rule nationwide.  The morass of litigation prompted EPA to move to centralize pretrial proceedings in the District of Columbia.  On October 13, 2015, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an Order denying transfer because the various lawsuits will involve very limited pretrial discovery as the cases will be decided on the administrative record and will turn on questions of law on alleged exceedances of statutory and constitutional authority in promulgating the rule.  The EPA and the Corps have resumed nationwide use of the prior regulations by applying case law, policy and the best science and technical data on a case-by-case basis in determining which waters and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.  On the legislative front, on November 4, 2015, over the threat of a Presidential veto, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution to nullify the Clean Water Rule.  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Stay tuned.

Firm Successes – Fall 2015

  • Tom Mackie and Peter Durning successfully represented MGM Redevelopment LLC in Land Court against a challenge by an abutter to MGM’s proposed Springfield Casino to the proposed dimensions of the Springfield Casino Overlay Zoning District. The City of Springfield was ably represented by City Solicitor, Ed Pikula.
  • Tom and Peter  won a case in the Massachusetts Appeals Court that affirmed their Land Court victory reinstating building permits for a $200M 35 MW biomass power plant planned for Springfield that had been wrongfully revoked by the local Zoning Board of Appeals. They also successfully opposed a Petition for Further Appellate Review of the Appeals Court decision to the Supreme Judicial Court.
  • John Shea negotiated a Consent Judgment with the Attorney General’s Office for a heavy industry client which requires an upgrade of air emission controls that will establish nationwide BACT, operational and management improvements at three facilities, and the performance of two Supplemental Environmental Projects. A substantial portion of the civil penalty is suspended and will be forgiven upon achieving compliance milestones.  The negotiations took nearly three years.
  • John and Peter prevailed in a hotly contested MassDEP wetlands adjudicatory hearing in which the municipality and a ten resident group challenged our client’s stormwater management system for a 50-lot, high-end residential development.
  • John  negotiated a settlement in an adjudicatory appeal by an environmental organization of our municipal client’s groundwater discharge permit for upgrades and increased sewage flow to its wastewater treatment facility. The settlement agreement and modified permit requires increased groundwater monitoring and evaluation of nitrogen loads, development of a nitrogen offset plan for increased concentrations in a watershed flowing to an impaired embayment, and evaluation of nitrogen pollution reduction measures, including an ocean outfall, under the Cape Cod Water Quality Management 208 Plan Update.
  • After an adjudicatory appeal by an abutter, John and Peter obtained a Final Negative Determination of Applicability for minor changes to our clients’ fully approved and constructed home on the Dartmouth coast. The Presiding Officer and the MassDEP Commissioner determined inter alia that the LID roof runoff collection and watering system will not harm wetland resources.
  • John obtained a Water Quality Certification from MassDEP and a 404 Permit from the Army Corps for a stream relocation to facilitate the revitalization of a retail shopping center, and a state-of-the-art stormwater management and new riverfront habitat. The Corps’ approval requires “time of year” construction limits to protect potential habitat of the newly-listed endangered Northern Long-Eared bat.
  • Peter assisted a residents’ group in Marblehead to develop and implement a strategy that eventually convinced a neighbor to withdraw his planning board application to construct a grandiose garage/exercise/office structure on a portion of the jointly-owned, island roundabout.