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Re: E-M:/ MDEQ New Public Participation Procedure

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

At 04:55 PM 5/20/2002 -0700, you wrote:
>Enviro-Mich message from "WIMS" <miwaste@centurytel.net>
>MDEQ New Public Participation Procedure
>MDEQ has adopted a new, formal "policy and procedure" dealing with public
>participation on so-called "controversial permitting actions." Because of
>the importance of the document, and the fact that it is not readily
>available from MDEQ or on the Internet, WIMS has published the full text of
>the document on our website.  The action is significant because it will
>place significant new, yet informal, "requirements" on permit applicants.
>In large part, the intent of the of the new process is to shift much of the
>responsibility for public education and participation to the permit
>applicant, even though there are few statutory or regulatory requirements
>that "require" the applicant to provide information to the public that
>address issues raised. As a result, MDEQ says the "current process places
>the burden of in-volving the public and addressing its concerns on the DEQ
>instead of the permit applicant," and then "the public perceives the Agency
>as an advocate for the proposal rather than an objective technical resource
>and an impartial decision-maker administering the law."
>The new policy and procedure entitled, Public Participation & Community
>Outreach for Controversial Department Actions (No. 09-007), was officially
>approved on April 10, 2002.  The detailed process is to be applied to
>projects which fall into three categories: the type of facility is
>controversial; the proposal includes a dramatic change in land use; or the
>project involves pollutants of concern in Michigan. Examples of such
>projects, outlined in the policy, include: incinerators/combustors (air
>permits), mobile home parks (wastewater discharge permits), waste disposal
>facilities and projects involving PCBs, dioxin, mercury, and lead.
>Access the complete Policy at: http://www.ecobizport.com/MDEQ09-007.html

The MDEQ policy in steps #1-7 seems intended to provide
supplemental information during the pendency of time when
MDEQ is considering a permit application.  The most offensive
thing in #1-7 is that there is nothing at all that prevents
applicants from circulating deceptive or misleading information,
or at least provides some sort of ability to respond.  However, if
Step 1-7 is actually intended to allow applicants to issue public
notice documents announcing a pending MDEQ decision to issue a permit 
rather than requiring this of MDEQ, then this would also be very offensive.

Step #8, however, is extremely offensive.  This is written not
as though the application was in play prior to an MDEQ decision to issue an 
application but in the manner of conduct of "hearings" after MDEQ has made
a decision to issue a permit.   Step #8 is nothing less than
a malicious attempt by the agency to....

....prevent the public and news media from hearing all outstanding issues 
and concerns

....to "manage the public" so as to channel as few persons/parties as 
possible into formal comments made on the record so that MDEQ does not have 
to respond formally to issues raised and so public parties are lead into 
not reserving issues by formal comment and not doing what they must to 
maintain all appeal rights.

....to intimidate the public with the requirement of a court reporter

....to implement and force quasi-formal contested case procedures on 
commenters before MDEQ has made a decision based on public comment

....the process envisioned in step 8 almost certainly violates selected 
public participation requirements implicit in Federal Regulations for state
program elements on public participation for Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act 
and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permits.

....this is an attempt to shift Michigan's public participation approach
to one similar to that in Texas, where the ordinary public's comments never
make it to record and only those entering a formal intervention actually 
get heard.

Why is it that Republican Administrations and legislators have such a big 
problem with letting the public be heard?   This is an overarching 
problem.  For example, it seems to be commonplace now that committees of 
the legislature will pass out legislation without hearing from all persons 
interested in being heard.  This is what happened with SB 205 ....masses of 
people wanted to speak, but the chairperson would not let them be heard.

Did MDEQ attempt to gain any public input at all on its "policy?"  If so,
from who?   Will Posthumus defend this approach?

I'd suggest that if MDEQ intends to geld public hearing requirements
in the way suggested with Step #8, that a multi-level response be 
developed....everything from litigation to determined and effective citizen 
disruption of such efforts to take away public voices.

The one thing that John Engler and Russell Harding fear is effective public 
participation effectively carried out IN PUBLIC with high visibility.  Step 
#8 is an attempt to end-run the public.  I still remember "chicken" Harding 
and an MDEQ hearing officer storming out in the middle of a public hearing 
on waste burning issues in Flint at the Genesee Power Plant....he couldn't 
take the heat.  So much for "accountability"....

Alex J. Sagady & Associates  http://my.voyager.net/~ajs/sagady.pdf

Environmental Enforcement, Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste/Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

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