I just finished reading the DEQ's Public Participation Policy referenced previously. I believe it is a workable plan, and I do not find it the least bit offensive. The plan to have informed representatives from both the DEQ and the applicant available to answer questions, provide information, and direct questions to knowledgeable people is an effective method for getting the information to the public so they may make informed decisions and provide insightful comments. I believe this new forum is a significant improvement from the old.
Previously, people voiced their opinions in a vacuum. The DEQ only provided the auditorium and a note-taker. Any individual could stand and express any opinion, repeat any rumor, or quote any slogan. Hopefully, their remarks would be recorded accurately. Anyone could say anything they wanted. The applicant did not need to attend or participate -- let alone answer questions.
With the newer policy, the public can make comments in any method they find comfortable. This is an improvement over the old system. The person can talk with someone taking statements and have their statement transcribed, or they may have their comment recorded. Regardless, the opportunity to present a written statement to the DEQ -- and to the press for confirmation if desired -- continues to be available. The written statement still is the most effective. The person need not be intimidated by having to make their statement to a court reporter. On the contrary, I can think of nothing more intimidating (personally) than having to stand up in front of a few tens or hundreds of people and making my statement to a microphone.
I find this policy to be balanced. It provides the public with a previously unavailable opportunity to acquire information from the source, to make their own decisions based on the facts, to question those making the decisions, and to provide their comments clearly.