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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled in Kain v. Department of Environmental Protection ( SJC 11961) that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection(MassDEP) failed to take action by the deadline of 2012 to adopt regulations and set specific limits on greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for climate change in the Commonwealth.

The MassDEP regulations were to be issued by January 1, 2012 and become effective on January 2013.  MassDEP failed to take action by the statutory deadline. Environmentalists petitioned the department asking for issuance of the regulations. A complaint filed by the plaintiffs in Suffolk Superior Court in 2014 seeking declaratory relief was dismissed citing that three regulatory initiatives by the department were sufficient to meet the requirement of G. L. c. 21N, § 3 (d).

The purpose of [the law] is to attain actual, measurable, and permanent emission reductions in the Commonwealth, and permanent emissions reductions in the Commonwealth, and the Legislature included § 3 (d) in the statute to ensure that legally mandated reductions are realized by the 2020 deadline,” Justice Robert J. Cordy wrote, overturning a Superior Court ruling.

Existing regulations “fail to ensure the type of mass-based reductions in greenhouse gases across the sources,” Cordy wrote. Justice Cordy described the language of the Global Warming Solutions Act as “unambiguous” and said it requires the state to establish “limits on multiple greenhouse gas emissions sources . . . [that] must decline on an annual basis.”

The SJC concluded that Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection failed to fulfill the goals and meet the requirements of § 3 (d) even though they cited three important regulatory initiatives.  Accordingly the SJC stated “the department is to promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released, limit the aggregate emissions released from each group of regulated sources or categories of sources, set emission limits for each year, and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

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