7 CFR 1794.13 - Public involvement.
(a) In carrying out its responsibilities under NEPA, RUS shall make diligent efforts to involve the public in the environmental review process through public notices and public hearings and meetings.
(1) All public notices required by this part shall describe the nature, location, and extent of the proposed action and indicate the availability and location of additional information. They shall be published in newspaper(s) of general circulation within the proposed action's area of environmental impact and the county(s) in which the proposed action will take place or such other places as RUS determines.
(2) The number of editions in which the notices should be published will be specified in the Bulletins referenced in § 1794.7 or established on a project-by-project basis. Alternative forms of notice may also be necessary to ensure that residents located in the area affected by the proposed action are notified. The applicant should not publish notices for compliance with this part until so notified by RUS.
(3) A copy of all comments received by the applicant concerning environmental aspects of the proposed action shall be provided to RUS in a timely manner. RUS and applicants shall assess and consider public comments both individually and collectively. Responses to public comments will be appended to the applicable environmental document.
(4) RUS and applicants shall make available to the public those project related environmental documents that RUS determines will enhance public participation in the environmental process. These materials shall be placed in locations convenient for the public as determined by RUS in consultation with applicants. Included with the documentation shall be a list of other project-related information that shall be available for inspection through a designated RUS or applicant contact person.
(5) Public hearings or meetings shall be held at reasonable times and locations concerning environmental aspects of a proposed action in all cases where, in the opinion of RUS, the need for hearings or meetings is indicated in order to develop adequate information on the environmental implications of the proposed action. Public hearings or meetings conducted by RUS will be coordinated to the extent practicable with other meetings, hearings, and environmental reviews which may be held or required by other Federal, state and local agencies. Applicants shall, as necessary, participate in all RUS conducted public hearings or meeting.
(6) Scoping procedures, in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7, are required for proposed actions normally requiring an EA with scoping (§ 1794.24) or an EIS (§ 1794.25). RUS may require scoping procedures to be followed for other proposed actions where appropriate to achieve the purposes of NEPA.
(b) The applicant shall have public notices described in this section published in a newspaper(s). Applicants shall obtain proof of publication from the newspaper(s) for inclusion into the applicable environmental document. Where the proposed action requires an EIS RUS shall, in addition to applicant published notices, publish notice in the Federal Register. In all cases, RUS may publish notices in the Federal Register as appropriate.