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Fully Accounting for Air Emissions with Massachusetts’ Cumulative Impact Analysis Approach


  • A new climate law requires MassDEP to develop a Cumulative Impact Assessment approach.
  • Abt has identified and evaluated over 88 environmental, socioeconomic, and health indicators for inclusion in the CIA.
  • Engagement with the environmental justice communities is key to developing a robust CIA framework.
The Challenge

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed sweeping legislation to address climate issues and protect environmental justice (EJ) populations. That legislation requires the state, with input from stakeholders, to develop a cumulative impact analysis (CIA) approach as a condition of permitting certain projects for their emissions. The reason for CIAs is to take into account the cumulative impact of individual sites that receive air emissions permits, particularly on vulnerable populations. Without such data, it’s difficult to truly account for the full effects of emissions. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) tasked Abt with assisting with the development of the CIA approach.

The Approach

Abt will help MassDEP identify the overall approach to conducting a CIA within an air permitting context. Within this this framework will be an assessment of baseline community conditions to determine the amount and type of pollution and emissions the local community is subject to, the unique vulnerabilities present in the community, and other environmental stressors that may exacerbate the effects of increased air emissions.

An important step in this process is to identify a set of indicators that will be utilized throughout the CIA. This includes environmental, health, socioeconomic/demographic, and climate indicators that are relevant to the analysis.

All of this will be sought with input from members of the impacted communities.

The Results

To date, Abt has prepared a technical report that summarized the research results of other states and federal agencies that are using or developing a cumulative impact assessment in a permitting context. In addition, several EJ tools and data sources were evaluated for use within the CIA. 

Abt also led the identification and evaluation of over 88 environmental, health, socioeconomic/demographic, and climate indicators that may be included within the CIA.

Ultimately, Abt’s research will be integrated into a cumulative impact assessment that will fully evaluate the effects of additional emissions on those communities that are most vulnerable or overburdened with pollution.


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