1% for the Environment
Severe cuts to environmental agency budgets and staff reductions are preventing Massachusetts from living up to its potential. Currently, only 0.6% of the state operating budget supports environmental agencies. In our annual Green Budget report we set forth funding recommendations that put us on the right track toward achieving the Governor’s commitment of 1% for the environment. The last time Massachusetts allocated 1% of its budget to environmental programs was in the early 2000’s.
FY2021 Green Budget Priorities
Department of Environmental Protection Administration
FY20 Budget: $32.08M
FY21 Green Budget Recommendation: $40M
- MassDEP has a broad set of responsibilities including ensuring clean air and water, watershed planning and permitting, the safe management of toxics, enforcing environmental laws, reducing solid waste, the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.
- This account funds personnel for statewide planning, monitoring, permit review, compliance inspections, enforcement and technical assistance for the following environmental programs:
- Clean Air
- Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
- Drinking Water Program
- Wetlands and Waterways
- Watershed Planning and Assessment
- Industrial Wastewater Management
- MassDEP spearheads significant water related initiatives. They are developing site-specific aluminum criteria for waterbodies for the first time, developing new biological criteria to improve water quality assessments, revising the statewide water quality standards, and developing a targeted statewide monitoring network with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Examples of Need and Impact
- More than 100 MassDEP employees took advantage of the Early Retirement Incentive Program in 2015 but the agency faces additional responsibilities to comply with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decisions (like the 2018 decision to uphold the state’s ability to cut emissions from power plants,) and to implement new laws and regulations.
- $1.1M of H2’s $1.5M increase is already specified for PFAS efforts
- Deep budget cuts have jeopardized the ability of MassDEP to do its work. The agency is extremely limited in its ability to issue permits in a timely fashion, provide technical assistance, and enforce state law.
- An addition of $1 million for the MassDEP Administration line-item would enable the agency to hire back approximately 10-12 staff.
- With an additional $2.17 million in funding, MassDEP could hire back more than 10 enforcement and compliance officers, five permit officers, and five monitoring and assessment staff.
- DEP will be expanding the waste ban program, yet 40% of loads at the current waste levels contain banned materials.
Division of Ecological Restoration
FY20 Budget: $2.1M
FY21 Green Budget Recommendation: $2.6M
- DER partners with municipalities, agencies, and NGOs to complete dam removals, culvert replacement, salt marsh restoration, and urban river revitalization.
- These projects support the Commonwealth’s climate adaptation, public safety, and habitat restoration while generating significant economic benefits.
- DER’s technical assistance and project leadership is critical to helping communities carry out restoration and adaptation projects identified in Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness plans.
- DER’s assistance is also critical to helping state agencies carry out many of the priority actions identified in the 2018 State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan.
- DER supports and complements EEA restoration and adaptation programs such as the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program and the Dam and Seawall Fund.
Examples of Need and Impact
- Requests for DER’s technical, project management, and funding assistance far exceed current resources. Many dams, culverts, and small bridges across the state are deteriorating and are vulnerable to threats from severe storms and flooding. Aging dams and culverts impact environmental health, public safety, municipal budgets, and community resilience to climate change. Communities want to remove dams and upgrade culverts but lack the knowledge, technical skills, and funds to do so.
- DER’s Cranberry Bog Program helps farmers pursue land protection and restoration, but it can only meet a small fraction of anticipated need.
- An increase of $500,000 will allow DER to add four restoration staff to manage projects, provide 1:1 technical assistance to municipalities and landowners, oversee grant programs, and develop training programs and tools for communities and landowners.
- DER leverages $5 in external funding for every $1 of state capital investment. Every $1 million in state investment combined with leveraged funds produces approximately 10 dam removal projects, 10 culvert replacement projects, or 150 acres of restored wetland.
- State investment through DER creates or sustains high-paying jobs in construction and engineering sectors.
- Completed restoration-adaptation projects also save communities money through avoided infrastructure maintenance and storm damage costs, and reduced expenses for emergency response, evacuations, and business shutdowns resulting from flooding and road closures.
Department of Conservation and Recreation: State Parks and Recreation
FY20 Budget: $47.25M
FY21 Green Budget Recommendation: $50M
- DCR is responsible for the stewardship, management, and safety of our parks, beaches, forests, pools, skating rinks, and campgrounds.
- 450,000 acres of land across over 250 properties and nearly 2,000 miles of trails.
- Forests that protect drinking water supplies for millions of people in the Commonwealth.
- DCR contributes to our quality of life, public health, and our economy.
- DCR’s parks support $16.2 billion in annual recreation spending.
- State parks serve people of all income levels, offering access to natural treasures and beauty of Massachusetts.
Examples of Need and Impact
- The agency lost nearly 400 full-time positions (30% of its workforce) over eight years. The FY21 increase is helping reverse that trend. With every $1M, DCR can restore 15-20 FTE
- The entire state is served by only a 15-person park operations support crew. DCR field managers are now spread across more properties, leaving many facilities and lands essentially unstaffed or infrequently monitored which impacts public safety and enforcement of environmental laws.
- The impacts of climate change are worsening. DCR properties need to be prepared for flooding, new pests, risk of infections, and other climate risks.
- This increase could allow DCR to engage an adequate number of engineers to plan and inspect capital improvement project and convert some of the most effective long-term seasonal staff to FTEs to provide consistency and retain knowledge.
Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
FY20 Budget: $154K
FY21 Green Budget Recommendation: $1M
- MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) is responsible for the protection, management, and restoration of the Commonwealth’s most imperiled animals and plants and the sensitive communities and habitats on which they depend.
- Over 400 native plant and animal species remain listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA). In the face of habitat loss, emerging diseases, invasive species, and climate change, this work is more important than ever. MESA turns 30 years old in 2020; now is the ideal time to increase resources for this critical team.
Examples of Need
- Prior to FY04, annual funding for NHESP was more than $500,000. In FY04, the NHESP line item was eliminated and was not restored until FY12. The state has provided a mere $150,000 for this important program each year for the past 8 years, accounting for only 5% of NHESP’s annual operating budget.
- Aside from the small line item and modest MESA regulatory review fees, the NHESP depends heavily on grants and donations from a voluntary state income tax check off to fund its operations.
- In recent years, the NHESP has consistently run a significant operating deficit. Increased funding is needed to close the deficit, reduce reliance on fluctuating federal funds, meet strict regulatory review requirements, pursue BioMap3, and permanently protect biological diversity.
- The bulk of the requested funding is required to address the structural program deficit and maintain existing NHESP operations. Fully funding this request would enable the program to fill one vacant regulatory review position, add a restoration ecologist, and maintain a coastal water bird coordinator. This will enable the program to expand science, mapping, management, and restoration efforts, and serve developers timely needs for regulatory review.
- If fully funded at $1M, general funds would still account for less than 35% of the NHESP budget providing outstanding leverage on this investment. Everyone benefits from well managed natural areas and open spaces, clean waters, and healthy plants and wildlife populations. An investment in diversified and sustainable NHESP funding is an investment worth making.
In Massachusetts, we are the beneficiaries of a wealth of natural resources. It is our responsibility to ensure that we continue leading the nation in protecting our environment and the public’s health. We envision a Commonwealth that has healthy communities, great parks, and clean, abundant water.
What You Can Do
Familiarize yourself with the state budget process.
Subscribe to ELM’s e-mail list to keep up-to-date with our budget advocacy. When you receive our Action Alerts, please contact your State Representative and State Senator to ensure that our elected officials are hearing from their constituents that funding for environmental programs matters.