7 CFR § 1970.14 - Public involvement.

§ 1970.14 Public involvement.

(a) Goal. The goal of public involvement is to engage affected or interested parties and share information and solicit input regarding environmental impacts of proposals. This helps the Agency to better identify potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures and allows the public to review and comment on proposals under consideration by the Agency. The nature and extent of public involvement will depend upon the public interest and the complexity, sensitivity, and potential for significant environmental impacts of the proposal.

(b) Responsibility to involve the public. The Agency will require applicant assistance throughout the environmental review process, as appropriate, to involve the public as required under 40 CFR 1506.6. These activities may include, but are not limited to:

(1) Coordination with Federal, state, and local agencies; Federally recognized American Indian tribes; Alaska Native organizations; Native Hawaiian organizations; and the public;

(2) Providing meaningful opportunities for involvement of affected minority or low-income populations, which may include special outreach efforts, so that potential disproportionate effects on minority or low-income populations are reduced to the maximum extent practicable;

(3) Publication of notices;

(4) Organizing and conducting meetings; and

(5) Providing translators, posting information on electronic media, or any other additional means needed that will successfully inform the public.

(c) Scoping. In accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7, scoping is an early and open process to identify significant environmental issues deserving of study, de-emphasize insignificant issues, and determine the scope of the environmental review process.

(1) Public scoping meetings allow the public to obtain information about a proposal and to express their concerns directly to the parties involved and help determine what issues are to be addressed and what kinds of expertise, analysis, and consultation are needed. For proposals classified in §§ 1970.101 and 1970.151, scoping meetings may be required at the Agency's discretion. The Agency may require a scoping meeting whenever the proposal has substantial controversy, scale, or complexity.

(2) If required, scoping meetings will be held at reasonable times, in accessible locations, and in the geographical area of the proposal at a location the Agency determines would best afford an opportunity for public involvement.

(3) When held, applicants must attend and participate in all scoping meetings. When requested by the Agency, the applicant must organize and arrange meeting locations, publish public notices, provide translation, provide for any equipment needs such as those needed to allow for remote participation, present information on their proposal, and fulfill any related activities.

(d) Public notices.

(1) The Agency is responsible for meeting the public notice requirements in 40 CFR 1506.6, but will require the applicant to provide public notices of the availability of environmental documents and of public meetings so as to inform those persons and agencies who may be interested in or affected by an applicant's proposal. The Agency will provide applicants with guidance as to specific notice content, publication frequencies, and distribution requirements. Public notices issued by the Agency or the applicant must describe the nature, location, and extent of the applicant's proposal and the Agency's proposed action; notices must also indicate the availability and location of pertinent information.

(2) Notices generally must be published in a newspaper(s) of general circulation (both in print and online) within the proposal's affected areas and other places as determined by the Agency. The notice must be published in the non-classified section of the newspaper. If the affected area is largely non-English speaking or bilingual, the notice must be published in both English and non-English language newspapers serving the affected area, if both are available. The Agency will determine the use of other distribution methods for communicating information to affected individuals and communities if those are more likely to be effective. The applicant must obtain an “affidavit of publication” or other such evidence from all publications (or equivalent verification if other distribution methods were used) and must submit such evidence to the Agency to be made a part of the Agency's Administrative Record.

(3) The number of times notices regarding EAs must be published is specified in § 1970.102(b)(6)(ii). Other distribution methods may be used in special circumstances when a newspaper notice is not available or is not adequate. Additional distribution methods may include, but are not limited to, direct public notices to adjacent property owners or occupants, mass mailings, radio broadcasts, internet postings, posters, or some other combination of public announcements.

(4) Formal notices required for EIS-level proposals pursuant to 40 CFR part 1500 will be published by the Agency in the Federal Register.

(e) Public availability. Documents associated with the environmental review process will be made available to the public at convenient locations specified in public notices and, where appropriate, on the Agency's internet site. Environmental documents that are voluminous or contain hard-to-reproduce graphics or maps should be made available for viewing at one or more locations, such as an Agency field office, public library, or the applicant's place of business. Upon request, the Agency will promptly provide interested parties copies of environmental review documents without charge to the extent practicable, or at a fee not to exceed the cost of reproducing and shipping the copies.

(f) Public comments. All comments should be directed to the Agency. Comments received by applicants must be forwarded to the Agency in a timely manner. The Agency will assess and consider all comments received.

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