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Re: E-M:/ DEQ Public Participation



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Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>
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At 07:48 PM 5/20/2002 -0400, Jack Lanigan wrote:

>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.

First, it isn't a forum and it isn't a public hearing.  You might
call it a "private hearing," but it most definitely isn't a "public
hearing" required by longstanding federal public participation rules.

The public knows a public hearing when it sees it.  What is totally
lost with this so-called "format" is the ability of community members and 
neighbors to hear the concerns their fellow members place on the record...in
public.

>Previously, people voiced their opinions in a vacuum.  The DEQ only 
>provided the auditorium and a note-taker.

In 30 years I've never been to any MDEQ public hearing of this
nature.  Typically there is a hearings officer and the writer of the
proposed permit is there,  and frequently there will be either
state-level and/or district-level management personnel as well
for particularly controversial issues (particularly Division chiefs).

>  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.

Isn't this in fact the purpose of a public hearing...to hear
the public address issues pose by proposed issuance of a permit?

Applicants frequently make statements at hearings on their
applications and, if anything, their statements end up being
too long and delay the chances of the public to be heard.

>  The applicant did not need to attend or participate -- let alone answer 
> questions.

Applicants who do not attend or participate would be foolish
to behave in such a manner.
>
>With the newer policy, the public can make comments in any method they 
>find comfortable.

The new policy eliminates the ability of commenters to have
their comments heard publicly.  Only a "private" hearing is
afforded.  Adoption of this policy is Engler/Posthumus/Harding/Nash 
autocratic decisionmaking, an assault on the voice of the
public in controversial cases, and an assault on public participation
and democratic public assembly of community members concerned
about propose MDEQ permits.

>  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.

MDEQ is already under the obligation to record issues raised
at a public hearing and to respond to such issues raised.  If they
fail to do this they risk having their permitting decisions overturned
on appeal.

>   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.

Do you think that community members do not want to hear all the
input that is provided to MDEQ?  This policy trashes that completely.
The whole concept of a public community hearing is one that is
deeply ingrained in our public traditions.  Let me share with you
a graphic depiction of this underlying PUBLIC HEARING tradition as 
expressed in a famous Rockwell painting:

http://www.rockwellprints.com/prints/freespeech.htm

This work of art says more than a thousand words about the importance
of public testimony heard publicly by community residents and neighbors.

>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.

None of such questioning or interaction will appear on any
record so none of the assurances or information will be
verifiable and/or enforceable.

The underlying motivation for this policy is anti-public participation,
anti-public assembly, pro-applicant and anti-federal law compliant.

Note also that permit applicants could use the policy to
respond to comments made without having to have such comments
be heard by the public at a public meeting.

The real question is how Engler/Posthumus/Harding/Nash dream
this stuff up.  They must be getting outside help.  Perhaps Michigan
is an unwitting laboratory for the machinations of the Heritage
Foundation, the Legislative Exchange Council nazis or some other right wing 
think tank somewhere.....like when Harding plagerized a supposed
environmental justice policy from something developed by chemical
lobbiests.

By the way, Jack, I'd be curious who you work for and whether you
have any interest/relations with those associated with permit
applicants before MDEQ and/or MDNR.



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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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