Jump to main content.


Enhanced Stakeholder Communication and Issue/Complaint Procedures

Introduction

Executive Order 12862 (September 11, 1993) specified several actions that Agencies need to take to make the Federal Government more customer-driven. One such action required Agencies that provide services directly to the public to “make information, services, and complaint systems easily accessible.”

Region 2 recognizes that it is our responsibility and obligation to reach out to all stakeholders in a particular permit issuance matter, to help ensure the necessary information is readily and easily accessible to stakeholders so that informed conclusions can be reached, and to facilitate the resolution of permit issues/complaints expeditiously to enable the permit process to proceed in a timely manner. We believe enhanced public participation can result in an expedited permit process that ultimately yields better environmental results.

Open and frank communication among the stakeholders is the fundamental cornerstone to any enhanced public participation effort. We pledge to make substantial efforts to reach the affected stakeholders to foster information exchange, to answer inquiries expeditiously, and to facilitate the resolution of complaints/issues as early in the process as possible. We recognize, however, that this enhanced public participation system will not resolve all issues prior to the formal, mandated public notice process is initiated. We pledge, nevertheless, to carefully listen to, understand, evaluate, consider, and respond in a timely manner to all issues raised, and to clearly explain and support our decisions.

This Policy for Region 2 permitting programs is intended to be used by our customers and as a standard operating procedure for all federal EPA permit actions in Region 2. The Policy focuses on defining a system that identifies stakeholders, informs stakeholders, solicits early input, and helps resolve issues/complaints expeditiously. Also, this Policy is not intended to supersede existing EPA rules, guidance or policy, but rather to enhance such processes; where conflicts occur, the more stringent system will take precedence.

Goals

Applicability

This Policy will generally apply to all permit issuance activities, except for general permits, where EPA is the permit issuing authority. (This includes actions under TSCA where Regional policy already specifies public involvement is required, most notably permits for PCB landfills and incinerators, and certain commercial/ research and development authorizations.) Our customers include the permit applicants, the general public, and State, Tribal, and local governments. “Issues” or “Complaints”, for purposes of this Policy, are comments of concern or objections to the future issuance of a permit, concerns to actual or possible environmental impacts by the applicant, or where the issue raised may reasonably be considered a possible obstacle to future permit issuance. The holding of an informational, informal public meeting, to be led by the applicant in the interest of informing the local community of the facility’s permit request, is optional under this Policy, and shall be encouraged only for new facilities, or where existing facilities are requesting significantly increased environmental emissions, on the order of 25% or more.

This Policy will be used until the formal, mandated public notice process is initiated announcing the tentative determination of EPA to issue or deny a permit. At such time, the procedures herein will no longer apply. Where regulations are in effect, such as RCRA’s Public Participation Rule, that are more stringent than this Policy, they will take precedence.

Enhanced Public Participation

In order to inform all stakeholders of the existence of these procedures, copies of this Policy should be: referenced and/or distributed with initial correspondence to the applicant regarding the permit application process; referenced and/or included in responses to stakeholder inquiries on permitting and at related meetings; and, made available on the Region 2 Internet web site. Copies of permit applications, when deemed administratively complete, will be made available for review at convenient locations. All such distributions, as they apply to a facility-specific permit, should include the names and addresses of the relevant permit issuance section chief and the Region 2 Permit Help Desk (a function of Region 2's Permit Integration Team, Division of Environmental Planning and Protection, US EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007-1866).

Issue/Complaint Procedure

The following procedure should be followed to allow the early identification of issues/complaints relating to a particular permit application during the informal enhanced public participation process described herein. While Region 2 will endeavor to resolve all issues/complaints during the informal phase of theenhanced public participation process, some will not be able to be resolved to all stakeholders’satisfaction. Such unresolved issues will ultimately be resolved during the formal public participationphase of the permit issuance process. A description of that formal process is not included in thisPolicy, but is available on request from the permit writer.

Issues/complaints that are desired to be handled under this Policy shall be made in writing to EPARegion 2; specifically, a letter shall be submitted to the appropriate permit issuance section chief, witha copy to Region 2's Permit Help Desk. Submittals received in other offices shall be forwarded to the appropriate section chief. All issues/complaints dealing with environmental justice, however, should be directed to the Region’s Environmental Justice Coordinator who will coordinate all subsequent activities with respect to such issues.

The section chief will maintain a log of all incoming issues/complaints and will respond within 10 business days of receipt. (If a fully responsive reply can not be completed within 10 days, an interim response should be sent within 10 days acknowledging receipt of the letter and indicating when a complete response can be expected, generally no more than 30 days from initial receipt.) The section chief will make all diligent efforts and use all available resources and means to try to resolve the issues/complaints during this informal phase, including, but not limited to, supplying clarifying information, holding conference calls/meetings with the complainant, state, and/or applicant, and possibly suggesting permit conditions that may resolve the issue to all stakeholders’ satisfaction. It may also be appropriate to await other pending decisions, such as state water quality certifications, that may impact the issue/complaint. The Region 2 Permit Help Desk is charged with the responsibility to see that all reasonable efforts are being made to meet the goals of this Policy. The Permit Help Desk may, if deemed desirable and at its discretion, raise issues to appropriate levels of Region 2 management to help facilitate resolution. The Help Desk will also submit status reports regularly to Division management and make procedural recommendations as appropriate to improve the efficacy of these procedures.

All responses, agreements, or other documents produced under this process shall become part of the official administrative record for that particular permit issuance effort.

 


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.