Though the real estate development industry may not always be an outspoken advocate for environmental regulation, there is no question every developer agrees that timely and predictable permitting is critical to the success of any project.
Unfortunately, if the cuts to MassDEP proposed in the House budget are approved, permitting and economic development in Massachusetts could be the unintended victims. DEP’s budget has already been disproportionately reduced by 40% in less than a decade, devastating a staff that has dropped from 1,200 employees in 2002 to about 745 under the proposed FY ’12 House budget recently passed. Although all of the other agencies under the Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretariat received an average 1% cut from the last fiscal budget, DEP was cut by 10%.
In development, time is money. If developers are unable to get environmental permits within a reasonable timeframe, the resulting delays could kill a project – especially during this fragile economic recovery.
As the Senate develops its budget (expected to be released next week), it must consider the importance of adequately funding DEP. Under the House budget, DEP may be forced to close one or more regional offices and eliminate another 20% of its permitting staff. NAIOP strongly suggests that, at the very least, the Senate apply the same percentage cut to DEP used for sister agencies.
Given the current fiscal crisis, budget cuts are an unfortunate reality. But we must avoid cuts that are so deep they undermine the very economic growth and job creation essential to our recovery.