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EPA Issues Public Participation Regulations
Final regulations, designed as guidelines for public participation in Federal and State water pollution control programs, were issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The regulations implement the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 which calls upon agencies to encourage and assist public participation in the development of standards, regulations, effluent limitations, plans, and programs being established under the Act.
The guidelines describe a general policy for EPA and the States to adopt in carrying out provisions of the water act. Individual regulations governing specific aspects of water pollution control contain more detailed public participation requirements than the general guidelines.
As guidelines, the public participation regulations outline a minimum public participation program. The guidelines call for EPA water offices and State agencies to describe public participation efforts in annual program reports. The State reports are submitted to EPA. Public participation reports will also be part of regulations, areawide or Statewide water cleanup plans, wastewater treatment construction grant applications, and other State submissions to EPA.
Each public participation summary will be reviewed and evaluated by EPA in relation to the matter submitted, and additional public involvement will be called for if public input is considered inadequate.
Emphasis is given in the regulations to the public hearings process, a chief tool of public participation, with particular attention focused on these requirements:
Sufficient advance notice mailed to interested persons or groups supplying the agenda and other elements of the hearings;
Location and time of hearing, which must be set with accessibility in mind, and to facilitate attendance and testimony by a cross-section of interested and affected persons or organizations;
Availability of material pertinent to the action to be discussed, in advance of the hearing;
Availability of hearing records for public inspection for a reasonable time to allow for submission of supplementary statements.
The guidelines were published in proposed form on February 6, 1973, and the public was invited to make recommendations and suggestions. Among public recommendations included in the final regulations are strengthened provisions for public involvement in State water programs and encouragement of public efforts in identifying water polluters.
All comments received are available for public inspection in the Freedom of Information Center, Room 232, EPA Office of Public Affairs, West Tower, Waterside Mall, 401 M Street, SW., Washington, D.C.