What is a CAG?
A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of representatives of diverse community interests. Its purpose is to provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process. A CAG can assist EPA in making better decisions on how to clean up a site. It offers EPA a unique opportunity to hear-and seriously consider-community preferences for site cleanup and remediation. However, the existence of a CAG does not eliminate the need for the Agency to keep the community informed about plans and decisions throughout the Superfund process.
CAGs may not be appropriate for every site. CAGs may be beneficial at removal sites, particularly non-time critical removal sites, as well as sites involved in long-term cleanups. They can be formed at any point in the cleanup process. The earlier a CAG is formed, however, the more its members can participate in and impact site activities and cleanup decisions. EPA may assist communities in determining the need for a CAG by helping them evaluate the level of community interest in and concern about site activities. EPA may also examine if there is an existing broad-based group that might function as a CAG.
A CAG information meeting can be used to introduce the CAG concept to the community. In advance of this meeting, EPA, in conjunction with appropriate State, Tribal, or local governments, would inform and educate the community about the purposes of a CAG and the opportunities for participating in it. This is especially important at sites where there has been relatively limited community participation in the Superfund process.
In many cases, news releases, fact sheets, and public notices in the local news media may be useful for disseminating information about CAGs. Other outreach optionssuch as flyers, announcements in churches, and personal contacts with community groups or individual citizensalso may be used.
EPA encourages CAGs to be in full operation within six months after the CAG information meeting in order to maximize their effectiveness in the Superfund decision-making process. In the interim, the Agency can assist the community in determining the appropriate size and composition of the CAG, soliciting nominees, and selecting CAG members.
How Many People Should Be In Our CAG?
The size of a CAG will depend on the needs of the affected community. While it often is difficult to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate and to achieve closure in large groups, the CAG should include enough members to adequately reflect the diversity of community interests regarding site cleanup and reuse. Typically CAGs have 15-20 members.
Should Be In Our CAG?
To the extent possible, membership in the CAG should reflect the composition of the community near the site and the diversity of racial, ethnic, and economic interests in the community. At least half of the CAG members should be members of the local community. CAG members should be drawn from among residents and owners of residential property near the site; others who may be directly affected by site releases; Native American tribes and communities; minority and low-income groups; local environmental or public interest groups; local government units; local labor representatives; and local businesses. Facility owners and other PRPs also may be included, but the community may choose to limit the number or designate them as ex officio members.
How Are CAG Members Selected?
CAG members may be selected in a number of ways. In some cases, CAGs may be self-selecting. That is, individuals who believe they represent the diverse interests of their community could nominate themselves. An existing group in the communitysuch as a group with a history of involvement at the Superfund sitecould be selected as the CAG for that community if it represents the diverse interests of the community. The local government could select, in a fair and open manner, members of the community to serve on the CAG. EPA, with the involved State/Tribal /local governments, could assist the community in organizing a Screening Panel to review nominations for CAG membership. EPA could review (not approve/disapprove) the Panel's list of nominees and offer advice, as needed, to ensure all community interests are represented. Or, EPA, with the appropriate State/Tribal/local governments, could select a core group that represents the diverse interests of the community. Members of this core group then could select the remaining members of the CAG in a fair and open manner.
Because each community is unique, suitable selection methods will vary; a formal process may not be necessary in every case. The key is to ensure that the CAG will be fully representative of the community and will be able to function effectively as a group.
Do CAG Members Need Any Training?
Many CAG members may require some initial training to enable them to perform their duties. EPA may work with State/Tribal agencies, local government(s), local universities, PRP(s), and others to provide training, prepare briefing materials, and conduct site tours for new CAG members.
What Responsibilities Do CAG Members Have?
Generally, CAG members should be expected to participate in CAG meetings, provide data and information to EPA on site issues, and share information with their fellow community members. They must be prepared to fairly and honestly represent not only their own personal views but also those of the community members they represent.
CAG members may select a Chairperson from within their ranks and determine an appropriate term of office. The primary functions of the CAG Chairperson are to conduct CAG meetings in a manner that encourages open and constructive participation by all members; to ensure that all pertinent community concerns are raised for consideration and discussion; and to attempt, whenever possible, to achieve consensus among CAG members.
What Should Our CAG Do First?
Each CAG should develop a mission statement describing the CAG's specific purpose, scope, goals, and objectives. Each CAG also should develop a set of procedures to guide day-to-day operations. These procedures should address such topics as how to fill membership vacancies; how often to hold meetings; and the process for reviewing and commenting on documents and other materials.
What About CAG Meetings?
CAG meetings should be open to the public. The meetings should be announced publicly (via display ads in newspapers, flyers, etc.) well enough in advance to encourage maximum participation of CAG and community members. CAG members should determine the frequency and location of CAG meetings based on the needs at their particular site. The format for CAG meetings may vary depending on the needs of the CAG. A basic meeting format might include an update on site status by the project's technical staff; discussion of current issues; a question/answer session that includes audience participation; review of "action items," and discussion of the next meeting's agenda.
What Other Support Can EPA Provide To Our CAG?
EPA, together with State/Tribal/local government(s), local universities, the PRP(s), and others, may assist the CAG with administrative support on issues relevant to the Superfund site cleanup and decision-making process. This may include support for arranging and documenting meetings, preparing and distributing meeting notices and agendas, duplicating site-related documents for CAG review, maintaining CAG mailing/distribution lists, and providing translation and meeting facilitation services when needed. If meeting facilitation is needed, it is preferable to use someone from the community with facilitation experience or a professional meeting facilitator. A neutral facilitator is particularly effective at sites where some controversy is anticipated.