Massachusetts Commission Recommends Expediting Siting Processes for Clean Energy Projects

The Massachusetts Commission on Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting published its report making recommendations to Governor Maura Healey on clean energy infrastructure siting and permitting reform. Governor Healey established the Commission in September 2023 to remove barriers to expeditious clean energy infrastructure development to help meet the ambitious goals set forth in the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan.

Among other actions, the Report recommends enacting legislation to expand the jurisdiction of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) — an independent state board that reviews proposed large energy facilities — to include battery energy storage systems larger than 100 megawatt-hours in capacity. This chart summarizes the jurisdictional parameters of clean energy projects:

Jurisdiction Over Clean Energy Projects

While the Massachusetts Legislature considers these changes, the Commission recommended they enact interim legislation so that energy storage projects may qualify to receive a certificate of environmental impact and public interest pursuant to M.G.L. c. 164 § 69K, which allows local denials or burdensome conditions to be overridden.

The Report proposed several other miscellaneous reforms including, but not limited to:

  • Preparing model solar and storage zoning bylaws that address preemption of local ordinances and bylaws, scope of authority, tree clearing, noise, decommissioning, and canopy projects.
  • Reviewing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection noise policy to address the disparity of treatment for proposed projects in rural versus urban areas.
  • Reducing timelines and increasing enforcement mechanisms with respect to the interconnection of clean energy projects.
  • Seeking guidance from the Office of Environmental Justice regarding community benefits agreements and stakeholder outreach.
  • Developing legislation that directs all pertinent executive branch agencies to coordinate the timing of their regulatory processes to ensure cohesion and transparency in their respective rulemaking processes.

Pierce Atwood’s Energy Infrastructure Project Development Group provides guidance and counsel to companies throughout the Commonwealth and New England to work through all legal and administrative strategies toward successful state and local permitting. Please contact Andrew KaplanJames AveryRick NovakDan Bailey or Nick Salalayko for assistance with any upcoming clean energy project.