On Tuesday, November 28, 2023, Massachusetts released an updated version of the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adoption Plan, the “ResilientMass Plan.”
While the final Plan bears a strong imprint from the Healey Administration and its new cabinet-level Climate Chief, Melissa Hoffer, the project is the latest iteration of years of effort by the state government and serves as the 5-year review and update of the state’s Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan pursuant to 44 CFR 201.4. The Plan also reflects Governor Baker’s 2016 Executive Order mandating an “integrated climate change strategy for the Commonwealth.”
The final product and the associated resources supported on the state’s ResilientMass website are impressive in their breadth and detail. Deliberate planning and the identification of resources and strategies for addressing potential hazards that may threaten infrastructure, residences, public health, and the natural environment are critical government responsibilities. As the Plan demonstrates, Massachusetts has already experienced changing precipitation and temperature patterns. (Chapter 3: Profile of Massachusetts’ Setting and Climate Projections). The Plan’s analysis of these trends and specific geographic features of the state makes a convincing case that the Commonwealth has work to do to anticipate and address climate vulnerabilities.
In addition to the ResilientMass Plan, the state has also rolled out the ResilientMass Plan Action Tracker, which provides snapshots of 142 pending action items and summaries of the lead agencies’ progress toward completion. The Action Tracker presents a range of direct actions by executive office departments, like integrating DCR’s Stormwater Best Management Practices into its Design Review Process. The Action Tracker also highlights efforts to increase funding to various state resiliency initiatives and commitments to developing best practices or guidance for hazard mitigation efforts.
Some of these items in the Action Tracker are certainly going to provide critical information to assist in planning efforts in the future, but it remains to be seen how many of these initiatives will take on the force of law by going through the complex regulatory rulemaking process where all stakeholders may be heard.
In sum, the ResilientMass Plan and Action Tracker are impressive tools that outline the priorities for the Healey Administration in the climate change area. These initiatives will be informative as the state develops further ways to prepare for climate adaptation, and the regulated community should expect that at least some of these policies may move forward along the regulatory path.
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