Updates and New Directions from Bethany Card, MassDEP's new Assistant Commissioner for Resource Protection

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Keith Glidden; Verrill Dana LLP; Wetlands, Waterways and Water Quality Committee Co-Chair

The Wetlands, Waterways and Water Quality Committee was pleased to have Bethany Card address the Committee at its January 2012 Brown Bag Lunch series.  Ms. Card is the newly appointed Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Resource Protection (BRP) of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.  She joined MassDEP in late 2011 after spending the last 14 years with New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) as its Director of Water Quality.

Ms. Card expressed enthusiasm for her new and evolving role in addressing complex and challenging water issues and looks forward to continuing the work she did for the New England region with NEIWPCC by focusing on the needs of the Commonwealth with MassDEP.  Ms. Card engaged the Committee attendees, comprised of lawyers, agency personnel, and representatives of special interest advocacy groups, with a list of priorities for 2012, which include the Sustainable Watershed Management Initiative (SWMI), nutrient management, water quality criteria, emergency wetlands regulation, stormwater management, implementation of recent MassDEP regulatory reform, and the Clean Energy Results Program.  

At the top of Ms. Card’s list is BRP’s continued support for the completion of SWMI.  Ms. Card highlighted the upcoming meeting of the SWMI Technical Subcommittee at the end of January and the meeting of the SWMI Advisory Committee scheduled for February 3, 2012 as important steps in the multi-stakeholder process and expects that BRP will begin shepherding the process of drafting regulations within the next six months to a year.  Ms. Card also expects that BRP will continue to address nutrient loading in 2012, which currently has a negative effect on many of the Commonwealth’s fresh and salt water bodies.  Specifically, that effort will include continued support for the Massachusetts Estuaries Project. In addition, MassDEP will join its New England state counterparts by working on establishing stronger outreach and guidance under the Commissioners of New England State’s joint statement of intent on turf fertilizer use.  Ms. Card looks forward to joining the continual debate on establishing numeric nutrient criteria and wants to take a hard look at the best approach for  measuring waterbody health.

Stormwater will also be a focus in 2012 with BRP expecting to expand outreach and technical assistance to cities and towns, in part, to help with the expected increase in cost to them due to EPA’s proposed national rulemaking for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits.  BRP will also be very engaged in  the Clean Energy Results Program, launched in November 2011 by MassDEP and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.  In particular, BRP will look to strengthen the connection between water and clean energy, analyze the potential of anaerobic digestion at wastewater facilities and the potential for hydro power in the Commonwealth, and advance MassDEP’s goals for zero-net-energy wastewater facilities.

Ms. Card also sees significant efforts in 2012 towards developing new regulations.  Most important is the BRP’s participation in the 10 regulatory reforms that are directed towards wetlands and waterways proposed under the MassDEP Regulatory Reform Initiative.  BRP will also be directing attention to creating emergency wetlands regulations that assist with efficient recovery from severe storms while protecting valuable resources and providing effective measures for enforcement where recovery efforts go too far.    

One of the biggest challenges Ms. Card sees in the foreseeable future, which was a shared concern from attendees of the meeting, is the BRP’s need and ability to maintain sufficient environmental monitoring programs to support and direct the decisions of BRP given the tightened budget constraints facing MassDEP.