Saturday, October 10, 2009

Draft Recommendations: III. Participation

Participation is the third of five themes for the draft recommendations. To learn more about the draft recommendations for other themes, please refer to the left sidebar.

Both public and agency participation are essential to an effective environmental review system. Courts are hesitant to rule on the content of ER documents, tending to focus more on procedural issues. Thus, it is necessary to have well-informed reviewers and robust public participation to ensure that environmental impacts, mitigation proposals, and alternatives analyses are given appropriate consideration. Capacity building through public and agency education and training will help to increase transparency and accountability, while decreasing potential bias in documents. Furthermore, project proponents should seek input from stakeholders as early as possible in order to identify and address potential issues in advance. Electronic communications and internet-based participation should be incorporated in the EIS process to further these goals.
  1. Use the internet / electronic communication to increase accessibility and efficiency. OEQC should provide guidance on integrating electronic communication into the process.

    1. Clarify if documents can be distributed in PDF format rather than as a paper document

    2. Require searchable PDFs

  2. Improve OEQC (or new dept.) website.

    1. Create email lists/RSS feeds for notification of actions based on district or type

    2. Establish online comment and response submission process

    3. Develop a centralized information management system (database) under OEQC

    4. Model website design on successful designs of other states (e.g. WA, NY)

  3. Improve consultation with both agencies and the public through early scoping in EAs.

  4. Amend HRS 343-5(b) to allow flexibility to extend the public comment/agency review period for EAs and EISs.

    1. Allow more flexibility at the lead agency’s discretion to extend the period for public comment

  5. Amend the statute to adopt the NEPA process for responding to public comments.

    1. NEPA 1503.4 – agency response to public comments

    2. CEQ 40 Questions, #29A guidance for responding to comments

  6. Enhance the quality of inter-agency participation in review of documents.

    1. Require regular agency staff training

      1. Develop certification process for staff, including preparers and reviewers

    2. Appoint a lead/dedicated staff member to oversee quality of commenting and facilitate inter-agency/internal processes

    3. Require agencies to develop internet tools for the ER process

    4. Improve OEQC website (see #2)

  7. Develop guidance on more effective public outreach based on NEPA 1506.6.

  8. Recognize central role of the Bulletin and encourage its wider distribution.

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