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Public Comments -- Massachussetts DEQ

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

stakeholder contact points To: Kathleen Bailey/DC/USEPA/US@EPA

cc: Ellie.Grillo@state.ma.us,

Subject: re: Comment period on '81 Policy

For use in Intra Agency Policy Deliberations

As the state-wide coordinator for public Involvement for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Waste Site Cleanup Program, I have had an opportunity to work closely with DEP staff as well as EPA staff on public involvement, specifically at Superfund Sites. Therefore, my comments on EPA's 1981 Public Participation Policy, are based on my experience with these programs. I hope to provide you with additional comments from the Waste Site Cleanup Program over the next month.

  1. What changes need to be made to the 1981 Policy on public participation?

    The 1981 Public Participation Policy provides a good base for public involvement and provides general procedures for such. It could benefit those using it further if the policy could address the uniqueness of the types of decisions, such as policy development versus remedy selection, and the public involvement considerations relevant to the decision being made. By tailoring the policy to the needs of program types or types of decisions, the policy could provide a basic level of guidance for staff implementing public involvement for their specific programs.

    Minimum public involvement activities should be required along with different levels of public involvement activities. The levels or types of public involvement activities would be dependant on a combination of the decision being made, level of controversy, and expressed interest by the public. The intent would be to allow for flexibility and to cater public involvement to the interest and needs of the public. General information needs to be shared to ensure that people are aware of certain events or activities, yet the public also needs to have a role to be vested.

    The success of public involvement also depends on who is implementing public involvement, their level of interest or commitment to public involvement, their experience and skills, the support and commitment of management, and again, the interest of the public. Therefore, the policy should consider these factors when trying to balance between providing flexibility and applicable guidance. Too much flexibility allows for a great deal of discretion in implementing public involvement by those whom may or may not have the necessary interest, experience, commitment or skills. Too much procedure creates a prescriptive policy, where public involvement is mechanically applied without regard to the uniqueness of each situation.

    Superfund Program Observations

    At many Superfund sites, interviews are conducted with community members and a public involvement plan is developed, whether or not the community has expressed interest. We have heard from several stakeholders that the public involvement process can be an extremely expensive and frustrating process, particularly when there is genuinely no public interest. Greater flexibility and the active expression of interest by the public could address this concern.

    Hearings are frequently used as the forum to receive comment, however, public meetings along with comment periods provide for greater exchange and less frustration by interested parties. Therefore, greater emphasis should be placed on comment periods.

  2. How can we further engage the public in effort to revise the 1981 Policy and other EPA regulations and policies which may need to be updated in regard to public participation?

    My first suggestion would be to hold comment periods when interested parties can focus on the issues. The holiday season or the middle of the summer is a hectic time for everyone, and comments in turn will be limited. If genuinely seeking comment and input, the timing of a comment period should be considered.

    There are many active community groups involved in policy development, permitting, remedy selection and etc. Public involvement staff on the federal, state and local level should be tapped for identifying groups, soliciting their interest and extending personal invitations. Multiple forums of manageable sizes could be organized to seek the input of those identified and solicited. The familiarity that public involvement staff have with community groups could be beneficial in generating interest in the regulation or policy for which input is being sought. A web site and video conferencing could also be used in conjunction with the forums as a means of seeking input.

Allexe Law-Flood
DEP, One Winter Street, Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 292-5917
Fax: (617) 292-5530

Kathleen Bailey 12/17/99
01:44 PM

To: Allexe.Law-Flood@state.ma.us

cc: Suzanne Wells/DC/USEPA/US@EPA,
Alice Kaufman/R1/USEPA/US@EPA,
Bruce Engelbert/DC/USEPA/US@EPA,

Subject: Comment period on '81 Policy

Dear Ms Law-Flood:

I am responding to your request for an extension on the 30 day comment period designated in the FR notice concerning the review of EPA public participation regulations and policies.

We are not able to offer an official extension, but do state in the FR notice that "comments received after Dec. 30th will be reviewed as the Agency further develops and implements an action plan to update the 1981 policy and, as necessary, other regulations and policies". Your organization may wish to consider submitting a draft of your comments, or top priority comments, by December 30th.

As a practical matter, we will be writing the initial report in the first half of January in order to present the report to the Administrator at the end of January. We do not know how many comments to expect - if it is a relatively small volume, we will attempt to include even those received in early January in the initial report. If we are overwhelmed by comments, we will probably only consider those coming in by December 30th in the initial report, or ask the Administrator for an extension on the due date for the report. Furthermore, this shouldn't be viewed as a notice and comment where this is the one and only opportunity to say something, as we are developing a strategy to further engage the public.

If you have further questions, I can be reached by e-mail or phone 202/260-3413.

Thank you for your interest . Happy Holidays!

Kathleen Bailey
Sr. Management Analyst
Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation

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