May 4, 2023 — Report

Disproportionately high burdens connected with utility infrastructure and operations fall on environmental justice populations, which are formally defined by Massachusetts law. Yet the status quo provides environmental justice populations and affected communities few or no meaningful opportunities to participate in DPU and EFSB proceedings, where most utility infrastructure and operations decisions are made. Few agency decisions currently reflect input from environmental justice populations. To address and remedy this historic inequity, the DPU and EFSB should make significant changes to their regulatory processes. This report, collaboratively written by a Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) convened by the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AGO), includes recommendations that the DPU and EFSB can implement in the short-term, as well as recommended changes that will take longer to implement. These can help address the existing inequitable decision-making processes.

The AGO convened the SWG in the summer of 2021 and tasked it with identifying barriers to participation in proceedings at the DPU and EFSB and proposing solutions to those barriers. In addition to meeting frequently over the past 18 months, the SWG circulated a survey, to which 600 individuals replied, and conducted interviews and focus groups with an additional 50 individuals. This process provided a more comprehensive picture of existing barriers to meaningful participation in DPU and EFSB proceedings, as perceived by citizens across the Commonwealth. The SWG was deeply struck by the depth of frustration and disenchantment with the DPU and EFSB voiced by so many interview and focus group participants.

The resulting report contains seven sections, each of which discusses barriers to community and stakeholder participation in energy regulatory proceedings and offers solutions to overcome those barriers. Many can be readily implemented by the agencies. The SWG acknowledges that some of the recommendations will require increased staffing and funding, a reallocation of priorities and resources, and regulatory or legislative amendments.