40 CFR § 25.4 - Information, notification, and consultation responsibilities.

§ 25.4 Information, notification, and consultation responsibilities.

(a) General. EPA, State, interstate, and substate agencies shall conduct a continuing program for public information and participation in the development and implementation of activities covered by this part. This program shall meet the following requirements:

(b) Information and assistance requirements.

(1) Providing information to the public is a necessary prerequisite to meaningful, active public involvement. Agencies shall design informational activities to encourage and facilitate the public's participation in all significant decisions covered by § 25.2(a), particularly where alternative courses of action are proposed.

(2) Each agency shall provide the public with continuing policy, program, and technical information and assistance beginning at the earliest practicable time. Informational materials shall highlight significant issues that will be the subject of decision-making. Whenever possible, consistent with applicable statutory requirements, the social, economic, and environmental consequences of proposed decisions shall be clearly stated in such material. Each agency shall identify segments of the public likely to be affected by agency decisions and should consider targeting informational materials toward them (in addition to the materials directed toward the general public). Lengthy documents and complex technical materials that relate to significant decisions should be summarized for public and media uses. Fact sheets, news releases, newsletters, and other similar publications may be used to provide notice that materials are available and to facilitate public understanding of more complex documents, but shall not be a substitute for public access to the full documents.

(3) Each agency shall provide one or more central collections of reports, studies, plans, and other documents relating to controversial issues or significant decisions in a convenient location or locations, for example, in public libraries. Examples of such documents are catalogs of documents available from the agency, grant applications, fact sheets on permits and permit applications, permits, effluent discharge information, and compliance schedule reports. Copying facilities at reasonable cost should be available at the depositories.

(4) Whenever possible, agencies shall provide copies of documents of interest to the public free of charge. Charges for copies should not exceed prevailing commercial copying costs. EPA requirements governing charges for information and documents provided to the public in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act are set forth in part 2 of this chapter. Consistent with the objectives of § 25.3(b), agencies may reserve their supply of free copies for private citizens and others whose resources are limited.

(5) Each agency shall develop and maintain a list of persons and organizations who have expressed an interest in or may, by the nature of their purposes, activities or members, be affected by or have an interest in any covered activity. Generally, this list will be most useful where subdivided by area of interest or geographic area. Whenever possible, the list should include representatives of the several categories of interests listed under § 25.3(a). Those on the list, or relevant portions if the list is subdivided, shall receive timely and periodic notification of the availability of materials under § 25.4(b)(2).

(c) Public notification. Each agency shall notify interested and affected parties, including appropriate portions of the list required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section, and the media in advance of times at which major decisions not covered by notice requirements for public meetings or public hearings are being considered. Generally, notices should include the timetable in which a decision will be reached, the issues under consideration, any alternative courses of action or tentative determinations which the agency has made, a brief listing of the applicable laws or regulations, the location where relevant documents may be reviewed or obtained, identification of any associated public participation opportunities such as workshops or meetings, the name of an individual to contact for additional information, and any other appropriate information. All advance notifications under this paragraph must be provided far enough in advance of agency action to permit time for public response; generally this should not be less than 30 days.

(d) Public consultation. For the purposes of this part, “public consultation” means an exchange of views between governmental agencies and interested or affected persons and organizations in order to meet the objectives set forth in § 25.3. Requirements for three common forms of public consultation (public hearings, public meetings, and advisory groups) are set forth in §§ 25.5, 25.6, and 25.7. Other less formal consultation mechanisms may include but are not limited to review groups, ad hoc committees, task forces, workshops, seminars and informal personal communications with individuals and groups. Public consultation must be preceded by timely distribution of information and must occur sufficiently in advance of decision-making to allow the agency to assimilate public views into agency action. EPA, State, interstate, and substate agencies shall provide for early and continuing public consultation in any significant action covered by this part. Merely conferring with the public after an agency decision does not meet this requirement. In addition to holding hearings and meetings as specifically required in this chapter, a hearing or meeting shall be held if EPA, the State, interstate, or substate agency determines that there is significant public interest or that a hearing or meeting would be useful.

(e) Public information concerning legal proceedings. EPA, State, interstate, and substate agencies shall provide full and open information on legal proceedings to the extent not inconsistent with court requirements, and where such disclosure would not prejudice the conduct of the litigation. EPA actions with regard to affording opportunities for public comment before the Department of Justice consents to a proposed judgment in an action to enjoin discharges of pollutants into the environment shall be consistent with the Statement of Policy issued by the Department of Justice (see title 28, CFR, chapter 1, § 50.7).