December 2016 Newsletter

Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Could Impact LSPs

By James J. Decoulos, LSP, Decoulos & Company, and Loss Prevention Committee

On September 16, 2016, Governor Baker issued Executive Order Number 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth” (the Order).   The Order requires MassDEP to promulgate regulations by August 11, 2017, to address the Global Warming Solutions Act, Chapter 298 of the Acts of 2008 (the Act). 

The Governor issued the Order because the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) determined that MassDEP violated the Act by failing to “address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”  See Isabel Kain et al. v. Department of Environmental Protection, 474 Mass. 278 (2016) (Kain). In its brief to the SJC, MassDEP acknowledged that buildings are the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. 

The Order focuses on addressing deficiencies identified by the SJC in the Kain case and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s transportation fleet, state agency and municipal facilities, leaks from natural gas distribution systems, and gas-insulated switchgear. It also requires state agencies and municipalities to assess their vulnerability to climate change. 

Although the Order is silent on private sector building emissions, we can expect the Commonwealth to address these greenhouse gas emissions in the near future. Improving building energy efficiencies has been a mounting demand placed on architects and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers to address the Stretch Energy Code, an appendix to the State Building Code that allows cities and towns to implement more rigorous energy efficiency requirements for both residential and commercial buildings.

How Does This Impact LSPs?

The need for more energy efficient buildings will most likely result in more buildings with interior spaces under negative air pressures.  Where the potential for subsurface vapor intrusion exists, LSPs will need to increasingly address how the design and operation of sub-slab active and passive depressurization systems is influenced by building HVAC systems and energy building performance.  The LSPA’s Loss Prevention Committee will be addressing how indoor air mitigation measures may need to comply with local building code and zoning by-laws in an upcoming article.