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Public Involvement Policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA’s Public Involvement Policy was produced in 2003 by the United States Office of Policy, Economics, Environmental and Innovation Protection Agency. It is available for download at www.epa.gov/publicinvolvement/policy2003/policy2003.pdf.

From the Introduction…

EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. To achieve that mission, EPA needs to continue to integrate, in a meaningful way, the knowledge and opinions of others into its decision-making processes. Effective public involvement can both improve the content of the Agency’s decisions and enhance the deliberative process. Public involvement also promotes
democracy and civic engagement, and builds public trust in government.

EPA has long been committed to public involvement. The fundamental premise of this Policy is that EPA should continue to provide for meaningful public involvement in all its programs, and consistently look for new ways to enhance public input. EPA staff and managers should seek input reflecting all points of view and should carefully consider this input when making decisions.

They also should work to ensure that decision-making processes are open and accessible to all interested groups, including those with limited financial and technical resources, English proficiency, and/or past experience participating in environmental decision-making. Such openness to the public increases EPA’s credibility, improves the Agency’s decision-making processes, and informs its final decisions. At the same time, EPA should not accept any recommendation or proposal without careful, critical examination.

This Policy supplements, but does not amend, existing EPA regulations that prescribe specific public participation requirements applicable to EPA’s activities under specific statutes, such as those found at 40 CFR Part 25 “Public Participation in Programs Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act.” (See 40 CFR Part 25, which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/publicinvolvement/pdf/part25.pdf.)

The public participation requirements contained in such regulations specify the minimum required level of public participation. (A partial listing of existing public participation regulatory requirements is contained in Appendix 3.) Whenever feasible, Agency officials should strive to provide increased opportunities for public involvement above and beyond the minimum regulatory requirements.

What is Public Involvement?
The term “public involvement” is used in this Policy to encompass the full range of actions and processes that EPA uses to engage the public in the Agency’s work, and means that the Agency considers public concerns, values, and preferences when making decisions. The term “the public” is used in the Policy in the broadest sense to include anyone, including both individuals
and organizations, who may have an interest in an Agency decision. (See Appendix 2 for a detailed definition of “public” and other important terms.

And another excerpt from the policy…

EPA’s Seven Basic Steps for Effective Public Involvement

The EPA should ensure that it conducts meaningful public involvement activities and implements all public involvement provisions required by statute.

There are seven basic steps to consider when planning for public involvement. Agency officials should exercise judgment and carefully consider the particular circumstances of each situation in determining how to carry out those steps. Agency staff and managers should strive to provide the most meaningful public involvement opportunities appropriate to each situation. Agency officials should consider the issues, locations, potential environmental and human health consequences of the activities, potential for controversy, specific needs of the public and the Agency, and other circumstances when designing public involvement processes. For instance, enhanced opportunities for public involvement should be created for those situations in which there is the potential for greater environmental or human health consequences or controversy. It is important to note that the Agency needs to set priorities for its use of resources, and that budgetary constraints may affect the implementation of any of these elements.

The seven basic steps for effective public involvement in any decision or activity are:

1.  Plan and budget for public involvement activities
2.  Identify the interested and affected public
3.  Consider providing technical or financial assistance to the public to facilitate involvement
4.  Provide information and outreach to the public
5.  Conduct public consultation and involvement activities
6.  Review and use input and provide feedback to the public
7.  Evaluate public involvement activities

The recommended goals, actions and methods for each of these steps are described in Appendix 1, Guidance for Implementing Public Involvement at EPA, at http://www.epa.gov/publicinvolvement/policy2003/guidance.pdf.

Resource Link: www.epa.gov/publicinvolvement/policy2003/policy2003.pdf

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