Category: Areas of Practice

Air quality is regulated on the federal level by the EPA under the Clean Air Act and at the state level by DEP's Division of Air Quality under the state Clean Air Act.  Federal and state regulations impose permit requirements and emission limits for certain stationary and moving air pollution sources and certain types of emissions G.L. c. 111, §§ 2B, 31C, 142A-F.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA sets limits on certain air pollutants; including emissions of air pollutants coming from sources like chemical plants, utilities, and steel mills. These are promulgated as the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for common air pollutants, including Ozone, Particulates, Carbon monoxide, Nitrogen oxides and Lead. For each pollutant, EPA sets ‘primary’ standards to protect public health and ‘secondary’ to protect public welfare.

DEP’s Division of Air Quality Control regulates new and existing emissions of pollutants, including noise and odor; requires registration and compliance inspections of large sources; establishes ambient air quality standards; promulgates state implementation plan (SIP) under the federal Clean Air Act; imposes prohibitions and standards on asbestos; requires motor vehicle emission inspections and maintenance; and divides the state into Air Pollution Control Districts for these programs.

Our attorneys help clients address the need for permits, permit revisions, and permit interpretations, New Source Performance Standards, State Implementation Plan revisions, Prevention of Significant Deterioration issues for new or modified sources, Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP), and threatened and actual enforcement actions.

The principal Massachusetts law regulating air pollution is M.G.L. c. 111, §§ 142A-142N. It authorizes DEP to; regulate sources of air pollution, order cessation of violations, and enforce against violators. It also gives local boards of health authority to regulate air pollution.

The principal Massachusetts air pollution regulations are 310 CMR §§ 6.00, 7.00, and 8.00 Section 6.00 codifies the NAAQS promulgated by EPA, Section 8.00 authorizes DEP to deal with air pollution emergencies, and Section 7.00 provides detailed regulations of mobile and stationary sources of air pollution. Indoor air generally is not regulated by DEP, with the exception of asbestos. Odor, noise, vapor intrusion and GHG emissions, however, have been increasingly regulated in recent years.

Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) are regulated under the Energy Law of the state. Massachusetts is a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), setting up a Cap and Trade Program. This applies to fossil-fuel fired units serving electricity generators with large capacity. The participating states have agreed to cap emissions of CO2 and reduce them over time.

Clients retain us for strategic advice before approaching the Massachusetts agencies, when team-building for a successful permit application, renewal or revision, when key legal interpretations are disputed, when enforcement is looming, when parties are at loggerheads, when agency appeals are necessary, or when court is unavoidable. Most matters, of course, are worked out with the agencies in formal or informal proceedings. Often interested parties ask for our help to intervene in agency file amicus briefs in court on especially significant litigation.

Our work on the original air pollution laws back in the 1970s, and amendments since then, and our enforcement experience for both the regulated community and the protected public, benefit our clients with clear advice and practical suggestions which can achieve cost-effective compliance and avoid potentially large penalties, production or project delays, and escalating tensions in agency relations.