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Basic Information

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

picture of handsThe National Center for Environmental Innovation coordinated the development of and provided support for implementing EPA's Public Involvement Policy (PDF 100.9K About PDF).

Public involvement encompasses the full Spectrum (PDF, 8pp, 141K, About PDF ) of activities that EPA uses to engage the American people in the Agency's decision-making processes. Public involvement is a progression that starts with outreach to build awareness and interest. It evolves to information exchange, through collaboration and recommendation to agreement and decision-making. Sometimes the Agency can empower stakeholders to take action, participate in or help support their decision making process. [EPA's Spectrum builds upon the International Association for Public Participation's Spectrum (PDF About PDF) Exit EPA disclaimer.]

Definitions of Public Involvement Terms

Public involvement begins when individuals and organizations seek information from EPA about a topic or issue, or when they receive information from EPA because the Agency identifies them as a potentially affected party. EPA's outreach activities serve and engage these individuals and organizations.

These four categories, defined by the purpose of the interaction and the expectation of how EPA and the stakeholders involved will use the information help clarifying the roles for all involved.

"I pledge that we will carry out the work of the Agency in public view so that the door is open to all interested parties and that there is no doubt why we are acting and how we arrived at our decisions."
–Administrator Lisa P Jackson Memo to EPA Employees,
January 23, 2009

Information exchange
Stakeholder action

Information exchange is the next step. Here, EPA staff, management and members of the public share data, options, issues and ideas. In the next step of the progression, individuals and groups may collaborate with each other and the Agency to provide EPA with recommendations for action. Some continue on to engage with EPA management in reaching agreement by consensus. Sometimes the Agency involves people in developing solutions, plans, programs or decisions that they will implement.

Access to information is crucial throughout the progression. As individuals and groups move through the steps in the progression, they seek more detailed information, increased access to decision makers, and more influence on the ultimate decisions. They also become more collaborative and committed to taking action.

Not everyone chooses to be an active participant in policy or regulatory decisions of the Agency. EPA's goal is to provide opportunities for people to engage at every point along the progression. Individuals and groups decide for themselves whether, when and how to participate.

Related Resources

EPA's Public Involvement Policy
The Policy provides guidance to EPA staff on effective and reasonable means to involve the public in EPA's regulatory and program decisions. The core element of the Policy is the recommended seven basic steps for effective public involvement: plan and budget, identify those to involve, consider providing assistance, provide information, conduct involvement, review and use input and provide feedback to the public, and evaluate involvement.

Engaging the American People (PDF 238K About PDF): A Review of EPA's Public Participation Policy and Regulations with Recommendations for Action. This report is the product of a cross-program EPA Workgroup that evaluated existing public participation practices and policies and provided recommendations. One major recommendation was to revise the 1981 Public Involvement Policy. The document contains an appendix (PDF 365K About PDF) on public involvement requirements in agency programs.

EPA's 1981 Policy on Public Participation (PDF 65K About PDF): This Policy was designed to provide guidance and direction to EPA officials on reasonable and effective ways to involve the public in program decisions.

Title 40 Part 25 of the CFR (PDF 39K About PDF): This Regulation provides requirements and direction to EPA officials who manage and conduct EPA programs under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (Pub. L. 94-580), Safe Drinking Water Act (Pub. L.95-190), and the Clean Water Act (Pub. L. 95- 217) on reasonable and effective ways to involve the public in program decisions.

The Report of the Common Sense Initiative's (CSI) Stakeholder Involvement Workgroup (PDF 393K About PDF): Explains actions needed to integrate EPA's stakeholder involvement activities and presents findings from the CSI Council Stakeholder Involvement Workgroup, June1998.

The Stakeholder Action Plan (PDF 37K About PDF): was developed in consultation with the Common Sense Initiative Council and provides a list of stakeholder involvement research and activities being conducted around the Agency.

Overview of EPA's Public Involvement Efforts (Slide presentation)

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