40 CFR § 6.203 - Public participation.

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§ 6.203 Public participation.

(a) General requirements.

(1) The procedures in this section apply to EPA's environmental review processes, including development, supplementation, adoption, and revision of NEPA documents.

(2) The Responsible Official will make diligent efforts to involve the public, including applicants, in the preparation of EAs or EISs consistent with 40 CFR 1501.4 and 1506.6 and applicable EPA public participation regulations (e.g., 40 CFR Part 25).

(3) EPA NEPA documents will use plain language to the extent possible.

(4) The Responsible Official will, to the greatest extent possible, give notice to any state or local government, or federally-recognized Indian tribe that, in the Official's judgment, may be affected by an action for which EPA plans to prepare an EA or an EIS.

(5) The Responsible Official must use appropriate communication procedures to ensure meaningful public participation throughout the NEPA process. The Responsible Official must make reasonable efforts to involve the potentially affected communities where the proposed action is expected to have environmental impacts or where the proposed action may have human health or environmental effects in any communities, including minority communities, low-income communities, or federally-recognized Indian tribal communities.

(b) EA and FONSI requirements.

(1) At least thirty (30) calendar days before making the decision on whether, and if so how, to proceed with a proposed action, the Responsible Official must make the EA and preliminary FONSI available for review and comment to the interested federal agencies, state and local governments, federally-recognized Indian tribes and the affected public. The Responsible Official must respond to any substantive comments received and finalize the EA and FONSI before making a decision on the proposed action.

(2) Where circumstances make it necessary to take the action without observing the 30 calendar day comment period, the Responsible Official must notify the NEPA Official before taking such action. If the NEPA Official determines that a reduced comment period would be in the best interest of the Government, the NEPA Official will inform the Responsible Official, as soon as possible, of this approval. The Responsible Official will make the EA and preliminary FONSI available for review and comment for the reduced comment period.

(c) EIS and ROD requirements.

(1) As soon as practicable after the decision to prepare an EIS and before beginning the scoping process, the Responsible Official must ensure that a notice of intent (NOI) (see 40 CFR 1508.22) is published in the Federal Register. The NOI must briefly describe the proposed action; a preliminary list of environmental issues to be analyzed, and possible alternatives; EPA's proposed scoping process including, if available, whether, when, and where any scoping meeting will be held; and the name and contact information for the person designated by EPA to answer questions about the proposed action and the EIS. The NOI must invite comments and suggestions on the scope of the EIS.

(2) The Responsible Official must disseminate the NOI consistent with 40 CFR 1506.6.

(3) The Responsible Official must conduct the scoping process consistent with 40 CFR 1501.7 and any applicable EPA public participation regulations (e.g., 40 CFR Part 25).

(i) Publication of the NOI in the Federal Register begins the scoping process.

(ii) The Responsible Official must ensure that the scoping process for an EIS allows a minimum of thirty (30) days for the receipt of public comments.

(iii) The Responsible Official may hold one or more public meetings as part of the scoping process for an EPA EIS. The Responsible Official must announce the location, date, and time of public scoping meetings in the NOI or by other appropriate means, such as additional notices in the Federal Register, news releases to the local media, or letters to affected parties. Public scoping meetings should be held at least fifteen (15) days after public notification.

(iv) The Responsible Official must use appropriate means to publicize the availability of draft and final EISs and the time and place for public meetings or hearings on draft EISs. The methods chosen for public participation must focus on reaching persons who may be interested in the proposed action. Such persons include those in potentially affected communities where the proposed action is known or expected to have environmental impacts including minority communities, low-income communities, or federally-recognized Indian tribal communities.

(v) The Responsible Official must circulate the draft and final EISs consistent with 40 CFR 1502.19 and any applicable EPA public participation regulations and in accordance with the 45-day public review period for draft EISs and the 30-day public review period for final EISs (see § 6.209 of this part). Consistent with section 6.209(b) of this part, the Responsible Official may establish a longer public comment period for a draft or final EIS.

(vi) After preparing a draft EIS and before preparing a final EIS, the Responsible Official must solicit the comments of appropriate federal agencies, state and/or local governments, and/or federally-recognized Indian tribes, and the public (see 40 CFR 1503.1). The Responsible Official must respond in the final EIS to substantive comments received (see 40 CFR 1503.4).

(vii) The Responsible Official may conduct one or more public meetings or hearings on the draft EIS as part of the public involvement process. If meetings or hearings are held, the Responsible Official must make the draft EIS available to the public at least thirty (30) days in advance of any meeting or hearing.

(4) The Responsible Official must make the ROD available to the public upon request.

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