32 CFR Appendix C to Part 989 - Procedures for Holding Public Hearings on Draft Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)

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Appendix C to Part 989 - Procedures for Holding Public Hearings on Draft Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)
A.3.1. General Information

A3.1.1. The Office of the Judge Advocate General, through the Air Force Legal Services Agency/Trial Judiciary Division (AFLSA/JAJT) and its field organization, is responsible for conducting public hearings and assuring verbatim transcripts are accomplished.

A3.1.2. The EPF, with proponent, AFLSA/JAJT, and Public Affairs support, establishes the date and location, arranges for hiring the court reporter, funds temporary duty costs for the hearing officer, makes logistical arrangements (for example, publishing notices, arranging for press coverage, obtaining tables and chairs, etc.).

A3.1.3. The procedures outlined below have proven themselves through many prior applications. However, there may be rare instances when circumstances warrant conducting public hearings under a different format, e.g., public/town meeting, information booths, third party moderator, etc. In these cases, forward a request with justification to deviate from these procedures to HQ USAF/A7CI for SAF/IEE approval.

A3.2. Notice of Hearing (40 CFR 1506.6)

A3.2.1. Public Affairs officers:

A3.2.1.1. Announce public hearings and assemble a mailing list of individuals to be invited.

A3.2.1.2. Distribute announcements of a hearing to all interested individuals and agencies, including the print and electronic media.

A3.2.1.3. Place a newspaper display advertisement announcing the time and place of the hearing as well as other pertinent particulars.

A3.2.1.4. Distribute the notice in a timely manner so it will reach recipients or be published at least 15 days before the hearing date. Distribute notices fewer than 15 days before the hearing date when you have substantial justification and if the justification for a shortened notice period appears in the notice.

A3.2.1.5. Develop and distribute news release.

A3.2.2. If an action has effects of national concern, publish notices in the Federal Register and mail notices to national organizations that have an interest in the matter.

A3.2.2.1. Because of the longer lead time required by the Federal Register, send out notices for publication in the Federal Register to arrive at HQ USAF/A7CI no later than 30 days before the hearing date.

A3.2.3. The notice should include:

A3.2.3.1. Date, time, place, and subject of the hearing.

A3.2.3.2. A description of the general format of the hearing.

A3.2.3.3. The name, address, and telephone number of the Air Force point of contact.

A3.2.3.4. A suggestion that speakers submit (in writing or by return call) their intention to participate, with an indication of which environmental impact (or impacts) they wish to address.

A3.2.3.5. Any limitation on the length of oral statements.

A3.2.3.6. A suggestion that speakers submit statements of considerable length in writing.

A3.2.3.7. A summary of the proposed action.

A3.2.3.8. The location where the draft EIS and any appendices are available for examination.

A.3.3. Availability of the Draft EIS to the Public

The EPF makes copies of the Draft EIS available to the public at an Air Force installation and other reasonably accessible place in the vicinity of the proposed action and public hearing (e.g., public library).

A3.4. Place of the Hearing

The EPF arranges to hold the hearing at a time and place and in an area readily accessible to military and civilian organizations and individuals interested in the proposed action. Generally, the EPF should arrange to hold the hearing in an off-base civilian facility, which is more accessible to the public.

A3.5. Hearing Officer

A3.5.1. The AFLOA/JAJT selects a hearing officer to preside over hearings. The hearing officer does not need to have personal knowledge of the project, other than familiarity with the Draft EIS. In no event should the hearing officer be a judge advocate from the proponent or subordinate command, be assigned to the same installation with which the hearing is concerned, or have participated personally in the development of the project, or have rendered legal advice or assistance with respect to it (or be expected to do so in the future). The principal qualification of the hearing officer should be the ability to conduct a hearing as an impartial participant.

A3.5.2. The primary duties of the hearing officer are to make sure that the hearing is orderly, is recorded, and that interested parties have a reasonable opportunity to speak. The presiding officer should direct the speakers' attention to the purpose of the hearing, which is to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed project. Speakers should have a time limit to ensure maximum public input to the decision-maker.

A3.6. Record of the Hearing

The EIS preparation team must make sure a verbatim transcribed record of the hearing is prepared, including all stated positions, all questions, and all responses. The EIS preparation team should append all written submissions that parties provide to the hearing officer during the hearing to the record as attachments. The EIS preparation team should also append a list of persons who spoke at the hearing and submitted written comments and a list of the organizations or interests they represent with addresses. The EIS preparation team must make sure a verbatim transcript of the hearing is provided to the EPF for inclusion as an appendix to the Final EIS. The officer should also ensure that all persons who request a copy of the transcript get a copy when it is completed. Copying charges are determined according to 40 CFR 1506.6(f).

A3.7. Hearing Format

Use the format outlined below as a general guideline for conducting a hearing. Hearing officers should tailor the format to meet the hearing objectives. These objectives provide information to the public, record opinions of interested persons on environmental impacts of the proposed action, and set out alternatives for improving the EIS and for later consideration.

A3.7.1. Record of Attendees. The hearing officer should make a list of all persons who wish to speak at the hearing to help the hearing officer in calling on these individuals, to ensure an accurate transcript of the hearing, and to enable the officer to send a copy of the Final EIS (40 CFR 1502.19) to any person, organization, or agency that provided substantive comments at the hearing. The hearing officer should assign assistants to the entrance of the hearing room to provide cards on which individuals can voluntarily write their names, addresses, telephone numbers, organizations they represent, and titles; whether they desire to make a statement at the hearing; and what environmental area(s) they wish to address. The hearing officer can then use the cards to call on individuals who desire to make statements. However, the hearing officer will not deny entry to the hearing or the right to speak to people who decline to submit this information on cards.

A3.7.2. Introductory Remarks. The hearing officer should first introduce himself or herself and the EIS preparation team. Then the hearing officer should make a brief statement on the purpose of the hearing and give the general ground rules on how it will be conducted. This is the proper time to welcome any dignitaries who are present. The hearing officer should explain that he or she does not make any recommendation or decision on whether the proposed project should be continued, modified, or abandoned or how the EIS should be prepared.

A3.7.3. Explanation of the Proposed Action. The Air Force EIS preparation team representative should next explain the proposed action, the alternatives, the potential environmental consequences, and the EIAP.

A3.7.4. Questions by Attendees. After the EIS team representative explains the proposed action, alternatives, and consequences, the hearing officer should give attendees a chance to ask questions to clarify points they may not have understood. The EIS preparation team may have to reply in writing, at a later date, to some of the questions. While the Air Force EIS preparation team should be as responsive as possible in answering questions about the proposal, they should not become involved in debate with questioners over the merits of the proposed action. Cross-examination of speakers, either those of the Air Force or the public, is not the purpose of an informal hearing. If necessary, the hearing officer may limit questioning or conduct portions of the hearing to ensure proper lines of inquiry. However, the hearing officer should include all questions in the hearing record.

A3.7.5. Statement of Attendees. The hearing officer must give the persons attending the hearing a chance to present oral or written statements. The hearing officer should be sure the recorder has the name and address of each person who submits an oral or written statement. The officer should also permit the attendees to submit written statements within a reasonable time, usually two weeks, following the hearing. The officer should allot a reasonable length of time at the hearing for receiving oral statements. The officer may waive any announced time limit at his or her discretion. The hearing officer may allow those who have not previously indicated a desire to speak to identify themselves and be recognized only after those who have previously indicated their intentions to speak have spoken.

A3.7.6. Ending or Extending a Hearing. The hearing officer has the power to end the hearing if the hearing becomes disorderly, if the speakers become repetitive, or for other good cause. In any such case, the hearing officer must make a statement for the record on the reasons for terminating the hearing. The hearing officer may also extend the hearing beyond the originally announced date and time. The officer should announce the extension to a later date or time during the hearing and prior to the hearing if possible.

A3.8. Adjourning the Hearing

After all persons have had a chance to speak, when the hearing has culled a representative view of public opinion, or when the time set for the hearing and any reasonable extension of time has ended, the hearing officer adjourns the hearing. In certain circumstances (for example, if the hearing officer believes it is likely that some participants will introduce new and relevant information), the hearing officer may justify scheduling an additional, separate hearing session. If the hearing officer makes the decision to hold another hearing while presiding over the original hearing he or she should announce that another public hearing will be scheduled or is under consideration. The officer gives notice of a decision to continue these hearings in essentially the same way he or she announced the original hearing, time permitting. The Public Affairs officer provides the required public notices and directs notices to interested parties in coordination with the hearing officer. Because of lead-time constraints, SAF/IEE may waive Federal Register notice requirements or advertisements in local publications. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer should inform the attendees of the deadline (usually 2 weeks) to submit additional written remarks in the hearing record. The officer should also notify attendees of the deadline for the commenting period of the Draft EIS.

[64 FR 38129, July 15, 1999, as amended at 66 FR 16869, Mar. 28, 2001, as amended at 66 FR 31177, June 11, 2001; 72 FR 37107, July 9, 2007]

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