Starting May 8, 2012 public comment will be a prerequisite to challenging permitting decisions. Under Section 19-1-301.5, effective May 8, 2012, a person who wishes to challenge an Permit Order may only raise an issue or argument during an adjudicatory proceeding that was raised during the public comment period and was supported with sufficient information or documentation to enable the director to fully consider the substance and significance of the issue.
Formal public notice and periods for public comment are provided before many decisions in the Department of Environmental Quality are made. For some decisions, public hearings (sometimes called public meetings) may also be scheduled. Following are some common questions and answers about the public notice and comment process.
How can I find out when a comment period opens?
- Call DEQ at (800) 458-0145.
Where can I find out more about a proposal?
- Look to see if there is a DEQ Webpage about the proposal.
- Call the DEQ Division involved and make arrangements to review the agency’s file.
- Contact DEQ at (800) 458-0145 if you need additional information.
How do I give comments?
- Comments may always be submitted in writing. Written comments should be submitted as directed in the public notice and, to be certain that they will be considered, should be submitted on or before the comment deadline.
- In some cases, the Department will also hold a hearing to give the public an opportunity to make oral comments. Written comments may also be submitted at that time. To find out whether a public hearing is scheduled, visit the Utah Public Meeting Notice site.
- Oral comments provided at a hearing, and written comments submitted during a comment period, are considered equally.
What happens at a public hearing?
- You may be asked to sign an attendance roster upon arriving. The roster is used to track attendance and for contact information if additional information is needed to clarify your comments. The roster is a public document. Please do not provide information that you wish to keep private.
- You may also be asked to fill out a slip of paper with your name and affiliation (resident, government official, etc.) if you plan to make an oral public comment. These papers will be used by the person conducting the hearing to invite speakers to give their comments.
- The person conducting the hearing will usually introduce the staff in attendance, and may offer a presentation or overview explaining the matter the agency is considering.
- Before the public comment portion of the hearing begins, there may be an informal question and answer session. This portion of the meeting is often not recorded, and is generally not part of the public record.
- When it is time for the public to give oral comments, the person conducting the hearing will ordinarily read a statement into the record indicating the purpose of the hearing and other information related to the public process, such as the closing date and address where written comments can be submitted.
- Public hearings are usually recorded to allow the agency to keep an accurate record of the comments made.
How long will I be allowed to speak at a public hearing?
- Generally, members of the public are given a certain amount of time to speak. Comment time is determined by the number of people wishing to speak. If the number large or very small, the person conducting the hearing may adjust comment time to accommodate everyone who wishes to speak.
- In some cases other arrangements, such as additional hearings, meetings, or extended comment periods, may be made to accommodate the number of people wishing to comment.
How long will the hearing last?
- The hearing will ordinarily remain open until all who wish to speak have had an opportunity to present their comments, or until other accommodations are made.
- In most cases hearings are publicly advertised as lasting for a specific period of time. These hearings will remain open for that entire period, and commenters may arrive at any time during that period, although any question and answer period will be at the beginning of the hearing.
What will the agency do with my comments?
- All comments received at the hearing and during the comment period will be considered by the Department as it makes its final decision.
- The Department may prepare a public document responding to the comments made, and indicating changes made in the proposal. Comments may be summarized and grouped together in this document. This document may be called a Responsiveness Summary, or just “Response to Comments.”
- If a response summary is prepared, it will be filed with other materials about the proposal and will be available for public review. In some cases it may be posted on DEQ’s Website.
- The summary can take anywhere from several days to several months to complete, depending on the number and complexity of the comments received.
What if I want to give the agency information or comments outside of the comment period?
Public comment is welcome anytime. Commenters should be aware that, due to limited resources, DEQ will not ordinarily respond to comments submitted outside of the public comment period. That doesn’t mean the comments won’t be considered. DEQ wants to make the best possible decisions, and good comments will help us do that even if they are not submitted during the public comment period.
Is there a difference between a public hearing and a public meeting?
Both terms have more than one meaning:
- Either can mean a meeting the agency holds to receive comments from the public.
- A public hearing can also mean a trial-type hearing used when a decision about a permit or license is legally challenged or when somebody is alleged to have violated a statute, rule, or permit. Public comment is not ordinarily taken at these kinds of hearings.
- A public meeting can also mean a meeting that is open to the public, such as a meeting of one of DEQ’s boards. Public comment may or may not be taken at these meetings.
If you have additional questions about public notice and comment for a specific proposal, please contact DEQ at (800) 458-0145.