- What is it?
Public participation is a process designed to keep the public informed about and involved in the restoration process. It consists of a series of activities and actions taken over the lifetime of the cleanup project that directly engage the public in the restoration process and provide them the opportunity for input into the decision-making process.
Public participation gives stakeholders (those that have an interest or stake in an issue, such as individuals, interest groups, communities) the opportunity to influence decisions that affect their lives. The public typically is comprised of a wide range of stakeholders who have a variety of views and concerns, so public participation opportunities should consist of activities that reach and gather input from a wide spectrum of interested parties. Meaningful public participation should balance among the various stakeholder views and concerns and reflect back decisions so that the public understands how their diverse opinions and comments were considered.
Public participation opportunities are provided at points where input has the potential to shape the decision or action. Designing a successful public participation program should provide the public information that helps them understand the issues, options, and solutions, and involve them in a way that ensures their concerns are considered throughout the decision process, particularly in the development of decision criteria and options.
- What has the Army done?
The Army follows the Department of Defense’s policy of establishing full and open communications with local communities ensuring timely public access to information, providing opportunity for public comment on proposed activities, and giving consideration to public comments in the decision-making process. The Army fully supports public involvement in the environmental restoration programs.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan (NCP), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), as well as the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), all require public participation at various phases during Army planning and implementation of actions. Stakeholders can find out more of what's going on by contacting their local public affairs office. Almost every Army web page will have a link to the public affairs office who will have someone to help. You can also contact the Army Environmental Command's public affairs office for assistance.
The Army’s public participation goal is to establish open, two-way communication with the local communities outside their gates, often impacted by their activities. As part of this effort, the installations periodically conduct community interviews to determine the public’s level of interest and concern and how they would like to receive information about and provide information on the the Army's activities. These interviews are used to develop formal Community Involvement Plans (CIP) that are published and updated at least every three to five years or at significant milestones associated with cleanup or imlementation of planned actions. Some laws require public meetings at certain phases of an action and other programs establish, maintain and notify the public of the availability of an information repository where community members can access and review documents related to the program, and notify the public of its availability. A more formal administrative record focused on the documents that went into site decisions also is kept and made available.
- What does the Army have planned?
The Army will continue to provide opportunities for public participation and input into the decision-making process at its environmental restoration sites. Those installations without RABs will solicit to determine public interest in forming one every two years. The installations also will conduct community interviews and update their CIPs at least every three to five years until the restoration is complete. Community Involvement Plans for local Army environmental restoration programs will continue to be made available through the information repository and if Five-Year Reviews of remedial actions are required as part of the Record of Decision or Decision Document, those also will be made available to the public. The Army will continue to meet all its public participation requirements and work towards establishing the reputation of a good neighbor.
- Why is this important?
Public participation contributes to better decisions by providing decision-makers more complete information in the form of additional facts, values, and perspectives obtained through public input. This allows them to consider and incorporate the best information and expertise of all stakeholders. Decisions are easier to implement and more sustainable because the decision considers the needs and interests of all stakeholders, and stakeholders better understand and are more invested in the outcomes. As a result, decisions that are informed by public participation processes are seen as more legitimate and are less subject to challenge.
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