DEEP: Public Participation Fact Sheet

Public Participation
An Environmental Permitting Fact Sheet

Introduction

Public participation is an integral part of the Department's permitting process. Recent changes to the law have provided for early public notice of proposed activities to allow the public to have meaningful input into the environmental permitting process. Overall, this earlier notice and comment leads to a more efficient permit process with a better end result for all.

The public's participation in the permitting process is important for two reasons. First, because the Department protects and conserves the environment and natural resources of the state on behalf of the people of the state, it is appropriate they have a role in the Department's permitting process. Second, many of the proposed activities reviewed by the Department may have a localized impact. Therefore, nearby property owners and affected communities need to understand the potential impacts of such activities and make the Department aware of concerns and potential conflicts.

How Does the Public Learn About Proposed Activities?

The different permit programs have various methods of notifying the public of a permit application. Most applicants are required by law to publish notice of their applications in a newspaper of general circulation in the locale of the proposed activity and then send a copy of the notice to the chief elected official of the municipality in which the regulated activity is proposed. The Department also has the authority to require an applicant to post signs at the site of the proposed activity with information about the pending application. In addition, the Department's new environmental equity policy encourages applicants to communicate with the local residents about the nature of their proposed activities both before and after applying for permits.

After the Department staff has reviewed an application and made a tentative determination whether to approve or deny it, the Department publishes a notice of this determination in the newspaper.

How Can The Public Participate?

The Department gathers comments from interested persons in a number of ways. In some cases, the staff will hold an informational meeting prior to making its tentative determination both to inform local citizens of the proposed activity and to answer their questions. In most programs, after the publication of the tentative determination there is a formal public comment period (typically thirty days) before the Department can take final action on the application. During this comment period, anyone may provide written comments. In some cases, a formal public hearing may be requested. As discussed below, informational meetings differ from formal hearings in several important respects.

Informational Meetings

The Department may hold one or more informational meetings for the public, particularly when there is likely to be significant public interest in a proposed project. The permit applicant and Department staff are present at these meetings to answer any questions that members of the public may have about the application and the permitting process. Permit applicants typically make presentations at such meetings to explain their proposals.

Formal Hearings

Formal hearings on permit applications may be held at the Department's initiative. In some programs a formal hearing must be held if the Department receives a petition signed by at least twenty-five people. At a formal hearing, also known as an adjudicatory hearing, the permit applicant has the burden of demonstrating that the requested permit should be granted. Members of the public may ask questions and comment on the application at the hearing. Members of the public may also become intervenors in permit proceedings, in accordance with certain laws.

At a formal hearing, an impartial hearing officer presides, and hearing participants may communicate with him only in the presence of all the other participants. After the hearing is closed, the hearing officer issues a proposed decision based solely on the evidence presented during the hearing. The proposed decision is distributed to the applicant, Department staff, and to any intervening parties. Any party who takes exception to the proposed decision may, within fifteen days after issuance of the proposed decision, request oral argument before the Commissioner. After any oral argument, the Commissioner issues a final decision. Any party who takes exception to that decision may, as allowed by law, appeal to Superior Court.

Further information about formal hearings is available from the Office of Adjudications.

Contact Information

Permit Assistance Office
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
860-424-3003

This overview is designed to answer general questions and provide basic information. You should refer to the appropriate statutes and regulations for the specific regulatory language of the different permit programs.

Fact Sheet: DEP-FS-005
Content Last Updated on March 14, 2002

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