Category: Areas of Practice

The National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, unites a poetically-worded national policy with a statutory plan to implement that policy. NEPA requires that each federal agency prepare a detailed statement of environmental impact for each major federal action that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. This Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the cornerstone of the statute.

Many states have followed this model, similarly requiring some kind of environmental impact report for any state government project, or grant which may result in significant damage to the environment. Even local governments are requiring environmental reviews as part of subdivision and zoning reviews.

The federal agency prepares the document under NEPA. The project proponent prepares it under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The need to comply with these laws triggers a high level of public scrutiny. The procedural requirements are enforced by federal and state courts. Citizens can file suit to challenge agency decisions and the environmental study itself.

The environmental study is published in draft and final form, widely circulated for public and agency comment. It routinely must address impacts on water pollution, wildlife, land use, public health, wetlands, and flood control. There must be analysis of alternatives to the proposed action that might avoid some or all of the adverse environmental effects, and of mitigation measures to minimize unavoidable impacts.

Our legal and consulting services are used by project sponsors, landowners, and cities and towns. We have dealt with environmental impact review for almost every kind of major project, including highway construction, hazardous waste facilities, energy facilities, sewage treatment plants, military installations, incinerators, landfills, and residential and commercial developments.

Mr. McGregor was lead counsel in the case of Grazing Fields Farm v. Goldschmidt, requiring state and federal agencies to prepare a Supplemental EIS fully evaluating an alternative highway alignment proposed by the client. He also was a member of the Massachusetts task force which negotiated and drafted major revisions to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act in 1977. When he was an Assistant Attorney General, Mr. McGregor represented the Commonwealth in the case of Secretary of Environmental Affairs v. Massachusetts Port Authority, the first major interpretation of MEPA by the Supreme Judicial Court.