The Judicial Supreme Court decision on the Boston Municipal Harbor plan is EXACTLY the same as the Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA! – Environmental Law

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court agreed with a Superior Court judge that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was not authorized by the Massachusetts Legislature to defer to certain municipal decisions made by the Secretary energy and environmental affairs.

This decision is notable, but not for the reason that many suggest.

First of all, I was wrong. All false. I had predicted that the SJC would defer to the DEP’s interpretation of its bylaws, especially since the legislature has made the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs responsible for “implementing the policy environmental department” and to “coordinate the activities and programs of the departments” within the General Directorate for Energy and the Environment, which includes the DEP.

Second, the decision will have no effect on the planning (or current lack thereof) of Boston’s downtown waterfront. Mayor Wu had already decided that the City of Boston would go back to the drawing board regarding the downtown waterfront district and that was not going to change regardless of the SJC’s decision.

But the SJC decision is notable as the second environmental law decision in two weeks in which a high court ruled that an environmental agency exceeded its statutory authority. The other decision is that of the Supreme Court of the United States in West Virginia v. EPA. As many of you know, in this decision, the highest court in the land ruled that the United States Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its statutory authority with its “apparently sensible solution” to our crisis. climatic.

The SJC decision and the Supreme Court decision run counter to decades of judicial deference to agencies’ interpretations of the laws they are charged with enforcing.

If we have learned anything over the past few weeks, it is that the judiciary of our governments can take away as easily as it can give. And if we’ve learned anything over the past few decades, it’s that the legislature may not act to address our environmental challenges as quickly or as completely as we might hope. Those celebrating yesterday’s SJC decision might consider the longer-term implications of this most recent lack of deference to the executive branch.

The Supreme Judicial Court, in an opinion written by Associate Justice Dalila Wendlandt, upheld a state court judge’s finding that municipal port plans governing development in coastal tides amounted to a delegation of power illegal by the State Department of Environmental Protection.

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Melissa C. Keyes