Help Expand the Conversation on Permitting

By: Carol Ann Siciliano

Over the last two years, my EPA colleagues Janet McCabe, Ira Leighton and I have had the privilege of talking with people inside and outside EPA about ways to promote greater involvement of communities in EPA decision-making, especially when EPA issues pollution discharge permits to businesses that operate in their communities.  Our particular focus was finding ways to better integrate environmental justice into EPA’s process for issuing permits, but what we learned applies everywhere.

EPA Public Comment Meeting

We learned, from talking to community groups, that the permitting process is hard for them to follow and influence.  We learned, from talking to business groups, that businesses value their relationship with their communities, but simply don’t know how to reach out to their immediate neighbors in effective ways.  We learned, from state and local governments, that opportunities exist for EPA to get more involved in helping both the communities and the businesses.

And so, we assembled many good ideas from the public, consulted EPA’s expert staff from around the country, and published a Federal Register Notice on June 26th with these ideas, many of which center around increasing public participation before a permit is filed. Tell us what you think about these ideas.  Please submit your formal comments to EPA by clicking here or by following the instructions in the Notice.   After the comment period closes, we will carefully consider every comment that we have received to help us finalize the ideas presented in the Notice.

We encourage you to use this blog as a way of sharing your thoughts about the Federal Register Notice with each other because we highly value collaboration and information-sharing. We hope you will use this blog to tell each other your stories about successful interactions between communities and businesses in the context of environmental permitting.  And, if you have had experiences that could have been better, talk to each other about what you learned. Through this blog, we hope to create a place where people with different points of view can share knowledge and experience and gain better insights into each other’s perspectives.

Our goal with this blog is to encourage an ongoing conversation among members of the public during the comment period – and beyond. Think of the notice and formal comment process as a way to tell EPA what you think.  Think of this blog as a way to tell each other what you think.  Though comments on the blog are not considered for formal review, we want YOU to participate in this blog because your views matter to people with other points of view.  Public involvement makes better policies, and that is why you need to get involved and make your voice heard. We’ll all come out wiser in the end!

About the author:  Carol Ann Siciliano is co-chair of the EPA Environmental Justice Permitting Initiative, which is part of Plan EJ 2014.  Carol Ann is joined by her co-chairs Janet McCabe, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, and Ira Leighton, Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England Region.  During her 22 years in EPA’s Office of General Counsel, Carol Ann has acquired a lot of experience in Clean Water Act permitting, environmental justice, and ways of promoting public involvement in agency decision-making.