Public Participation - EPA Descriptions
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- is obligated
by law to involve the public in some of its processes. There may
be some differences in how the EPA treats public involvement in
its different programs. The three main programs addressed here are
Superfund sites, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) sites
Superfund - The EPA is especially concerned about having
the community involved in the clean-up of a contaminated superfund
site. The EPA has a policy of public involvement that proposes to
commit the EPA to early, meaningful public involvement, ensure decisions
are made with an understanding of the concerns of people affected,
promote techniques that increase opportunities for public involvement,
and establish clear procedures for conducting public involvement
in EPA decision-making.
RCRA - The EPA also established rules for public participation
These rules recommend involving the public early during permitting,
increasing opportunities for public participation, increasing access
to information, and providing guidance to facilities to increase
public participation. RCRA requires informal public meetings, formal
notices of permit application, information repositories (libraries)
and notice of test burns at incinerators.
Brownfields - Often communities participate in the redevelopment
of a brownfield
site through a community redevelopment
corporation (CRC). To be successful, a CRC may need to find
funding, have access to government resources to facilitate the redevelopment
effort. New CRCs can begin a network through Chambers of Commerce
or other business-focused organizations to begin the effort.
In addition, the EPA developed specific categories of stakeholders
that include the areas of Outreach, Information Exchange, Recommendations
Outreach includes basic communication within the community
and between the EPA and the community. It helps the EPA to know
who in the community is interested and involved so announcements
can be shared more broadly.
Information exchange is when various "sides" share important
viewpoints and concerns with each other. Exchanging information
is not a debate or decision-making process. Information can be exchanged
in formal EPA-recognized venues such as public meetings and public
hearings. Roundtable discussions and workshops can also be used.
Recommendations are general agreements that stakeholders
present for further consideration by the EPA. Recommendations are
not binding, but are given serious consideration in the decision-making
are clearly negotiated and decided by consensus of the stakeholders.
Agreements can often be enforceable.
The EPA has three specialized meeting types. The three types include
Public Meetings, Public Hearings, and Community Advisory
Public Meetings - A public meeting is the least formal meeting
type and provides a forum for an agency to answer questions of the
public. It is for discussion not for decision-making.
- Public meetings can be called by a community group.
- Set objectives, expectations and desired results.
- Consider using a facilitator if there is controversy.
- Schedule a convenient location for the meeting.
- Announce the meeting 30 days in advance.
Public Hearings - A public hearing is required by a regulation
for the public to comment and testify on legislation or agency action.
Advisory Groups (CAG)
- A CAG is an EPA designed program that creates a mechanism for
the public to participate in decision-making about Superfund sites.
The focus of CAGs is on minority and low-income populations.
- While the EPA makes the final decision, the CAG can represent
the community to the EPA so the EPA will seriously consider community
preferences for site cleanup and remediation.
Citizens' history of involvement with the EPA can range from very
positive to extremely negative. Therefore, the EPA hopes to be more
consistent in the quality and type of public involvement opportunities
through training and supporting EPQ employees. In addition, it is
evaluating its progress in meeting the public's need for involvement.
In January 2002, the EPA developed recommendations for implementing
public involvement. The recommendations are in a document can be
found at the EPA website.