40 CFR 25.7 - Advisory groups.
(a) Applicability. The requirements of this section on advisory groups shall be met whenever provisions of this chapter require use of an advisory group by State, interstate, or substate agencies involved in activities supported by EPA financial assistance under any of the three Acts.
(b) Role. Primary responsibility for decision-making in environmental programs is vested by law in the elected and appointed officials who serve on public bodies and agencies at various levels of government. However, all segments of the public must have the opportunity to participate in environmental quality planning. Accordingly, where EPA identifies a need for continued attention of an informed core group of citizens in relation to activities conducted with EPA financial assistance, program regulations elsewhere in this chapter will require an advisory group to be appointed by the financially assisted agency. Such advisory groups will not be the sole mechanism for public participation, but will complement other mechanisms. They are intended to assist elected or appointed officials with final decision-making responsibility by making recommendations to such officials on important issues. In addition, advisory groups should foster a constructive interchange among the various interests present on the group and enhance the prospect of community acceptance of agency action.
(1) The agency receiving financial assistance shall assure that the advisory group reflects a balance of interests in the affected area. In order to meet this requirement, the assisted agency shall take positive action, in accordance with paragraph (c)(3) of this section, to establish an advisory group which consists of substantially equivalent proportions of the following four groups:
(i) Private citizens. No person may be included in this portion of the advisory group who is likely to incur a financial gain or loss greater than that of an average homeowner, taxpayer or consumer as a result of any action likely to be taken by the assisted agency.
(ii) Representatives of public interest groups. A “public interest group” is an organization which reflects a general civic, social, recreational, environmental or public health perspective in the area and which does not directly reflect the economic interests of its membership.
(iii) Public officials.
(iv) Citizens or representatives of organizations with substantial economic interests in the plan or project.
(2) Generally, where the activity has a particular geographic focus, the advisory group shall be made up of persons who are residents of that geographic area.
(3) In order to meet the advisory group membership requirements of paragraph (c)(1) of this section, the assisted agency shall:
(i) Identify public interest groups, economic interests, and public officials who are interested in or affected by the assisted activity.
(ii) Make active efforts to inform citizens in the affected area, and the persons or groups identified under paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section, of this opportunity for participation on the advisory group. This may include such actions as placing notices or announcements in the newspapers or other media, mailing written notices to interested parties, contacting organizations or individuals directly, requesting organizations to notify their members through meetings, newsletters, or other means.
(iii) Where the membership composition set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section is not met after the above actions, the assisted agency shall identify the causative problems and make additional efforts to overcome such problems. For example, the agency should make personal contact with prospective participants to invite their participation.
(iv) Where problems in meeting the membership composition arise, the agency should request advice and assistance from EPA.
(d) The assisted agency shall record the names and mailing addresses of each member of the advisory group, with the attributes of each in relation to the membership requirements set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, provide a copy to EPA, and make the list available to the public. In the event that the membership requirements set forth in paragraph (c)(1) of this section are not met, the assisted agency shall append to the list a description of its efforts to comply with those requirements and an explanation of the problems which prevented compliance. EPA shall review the agency's efforts to comply and approve the advisory group composition or, if the agency's efforts were inadequate, require additional actions to achieve the required membership composition.
(e) Responsibilities of the assisted agency.
(1) The assisted agency shall designate a staff contact who will be responsible for day-to-day coordination among the advisory group, the agency, and any agency contractors or consultants. The financial assistance agreement shall include a budget item for this staff contact. Where substantial portions of the assisted agency's responsibilities will be met under contract, the agency shall require a similar designation, and budget specification, of its contractor. In the latter event, the assisted agency does not have to designate a separate staff contact on its own staff, if the Regional Administrator determines that the contractor's designation will result in adequate coordination. The staff contact shall be located in the project area.
(2) The assisted agency has such responsibilities as providing the advisory group with information, identifying issues for the advisory group's consideration, consulting with the advisory group throughout the project, requesting the advisory group's recommendations prior to major decisions, transmitting advisory group recommendations to decision-making officials, and making written responses to any formal recommendation by the advisory group. The agency shall make any such written responses available to the public. To the maximum extent feasible, the assisted agency shall involve the advisory group in the development of the public participation program.
(3) The assisted agency shall identify professional and clerical staff time which the advisory group may depend upon for assistance, and provide the advisory group with an operating budget which may be used for technical assistance and other purposes agreed upon between the advisory group and the agency.
(4) The assisted agency shall establish a system to make costs of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses of advisory group participation available to group members. Time away from work need not be reimbursed; however, assisted agencies are encouraged to schedule meetings at times and places which will not require members to leave their jobs to attend.
(f) Advisory group responsibilities and duties. The advisory group may select its own chairperson, adopt its own rules of order, and schedule and conduct its own meetings. Advisory group meetings shall be announced well in advance and shall be open to the public. At all meetings, the advisory group shall provide opportunity for public comment. Any minutes of advisory group meetings and recommendations to the assisted agency shall be available to the public. The advisory group should monitor the progress of the project and become familiar with issues relevant to project development. In the event the assisted agency and the advisory group agree that the advisory group will assume public participation responsibilities, the group should undertake those responsibilities promptly. The advisory group should make written recommendations directly to the assisted agency and to responsible decision-making officials on major decisions (including approval of the public participation program) and respond to any requests from the agency or decision-making officials for recommendations. The advisory group should remain aware of community attitudes and responses to issues as they arise. As part of this effort, the advisory group may, within the limitations of available resources, conduct public participation activities in conjunction with the assisted agency; solicit outside advice; and establish, in conjunction with the assisted agency, subcommittees, ad hoc groups, or task forces to investigate and develop recommendations on particular issues as they arise. The advisory group should undertake its responsibilities fully and promptly in accordance with the policies and requirements of this part. Nothing shall preclude the right of the advisory group from requesting EPA to perform an evaluation of the assisted agency's compliance with the requirements of this part.
(g) Training and assistance. EPA will promptly provide appropriate written guidance and project information to the newly formed advisory group and may provide advice and assistance to the group throughout the life of the project. EPA will develop and, in conjunction with the State or assisted agency, carry out a program to provide a training session for the advisory group, and appropriate assisted agency representatives, promptly after the advisory group is formed. The assisted agency shall provide additional needed information or assistance to the advisory group.