Date of Award
Master of Community Planning
The 1976 amendments to the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) were primarily aimed at enabling the statute to better accommodate the demands placed on coastal resources by an increase in domestic energy exploration and production.
The national interest provision (Section 306(c)(8) confronts the problem of potential conflicts arising out of the pursuit of equally important coastal zone management goals as stated in the CZMA. The CZMA states that there is a national interest in the "effective management, beneficial use, protection and development of the Coastal Zone". Due to the increasing likelihood of more energy facility sittings in the coastal zone Congress wanted to make sure that "adequate consideration" was given to energy facility siting proposals. The national interest provision and attendant federal regulations are designed to ensure that each federally approved coastal zone management program treats such proposals in a comprehensive fashion.
Congress' wording of the national interest provision is the cause of much controversy. "Adequate consideration" is subject to various interpretations by state and federal officials and private industry. Chapter I reviews the CZMA's legislative history, court proceedings, state and federal records and private industry comments to display the complexity involved in interpreting the national interest provision.
Chapter II evaluates how well Massachusetts and Rhode Island coastal zone management programs comply with the national interest clause. Both states compliance procedures are subject to question as there have not been any specific cases involving the national interest to this date. Massachusetts and Rhode Island's programs are ambiguous with regard to how final decisions on national interest facility sittings are made.
Chapter III presents findings and conclusions with regard to Massachusetts and Rhode Island's compliance with the national interest provision. Program recommendations are made pursuant to the goals as stated by Congress in the CZMA. The major finding in both states is that there is a lack of adequate national interest assessment criteria. Decision makers presently review federal and private industry impact assessments, however, they have nothing to base their evaluations on. It is advocated here that a facility should be subject to national interest scrutiny, whenever a NEPA assessment is required. After such designation, federally promulgated national interest assessment guidelines should be available for state and local decision makers. Such standards will unify each state's approach to national interest facility siting and ensure equal treatment of project proposals.
Specifically, Massachusetts should provide for better consideration of national interest facilities valued at less than five million dollars. Presently, the Energy Facility Siting Council is responsible for fulfilling the national interest provision, but is not legally bound to do so. Measures should be taken to depoliticize the national interest process in Massachusetts.
Rhode Island does not have an energy facility siting body and is in need of an adequate energy facility planning process. The Coastal Resources Management Council is the best mechanism available for implementing this planning process. Rhode Island also needs a stronger regulatory mechanism to ensure that the regional benefit clause of the CZMA is not ignored. Non-compliance with the regional benefit clause could undermine the effects of the national interest provision. An energy facility siting process similar to Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Council would ensure such compliance.
Lastly, regional consideration of national interest proposals is advocated in an effort to improve upon the comprehensive approach now attempted in considering the national interest.
Thomas, James T., "Coastal Zone Management and the National Interest: Massachusetts and Rhode Island" (1979). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 610.