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Resolution Concerning Public Participation

Commission resolution and directives to staff regarding public participation in permitting and rulemaking.

April 22, 1996

A RESOLUTION concerning Public Participation at the TNRCC

WHEREAS, protecting human health and our state's resources are the fundamental missions of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission;

WHEREAS, in accomplishing this mission it is imperative that the commission and the agency seek and consider a full range of views and opinions from members of the public;

WHEREAS, in recognition of this the Commission has adopted as one of its philosophies the need to ensure meaningful public participation in the agency's decision making process;

WHEREAS, the Commission is committed to full participation by the public in its permitting and rule-making processes consistent with Texas law;

WHEREAS, the Commission believes that public input is essential to quality decision making at the agency;

WHEREAS, the Commission recognizes that there are many avenues for participation in agency decision making, including but not limited to, the formal hearing process;

WHEREAS, the Legislature established the Public Interest Counsel specifically to represent the public interest and to be an advocate for the public in environmental matters;

WHEREAS, the agency has previously on its own initiative undertaken to create mechanisms and processes to aid the public in its participation in the decisions of the agency, such as through the Ombudsman's Office and the Environmental Equity Program;

WHEREAS, the Commission desires to emphasize its commitment to increased and improved public participation at the agency;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

The Commission shall strengthen its public assistance and outreach activities to provide greater responsiveness to the public and additional opportunities for public participation;

The Commission strongly renews its commitment to the need for and the workings of the Office of Public Interest Counsel and directs the Public Interest Counsel to focus its efforts on providing greater assistance to citizens who are challenging actions of the agency; The Commission shall continue and expand the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution as a means of ensuring and enhancing public participation in the permitting process and bringing to resolution matters before the need for a contested case hearing;

The Commission directs staff to review the rules and policies regarding public notice of meetings and hearings to ensure that the public has knowledge of and can participate to the full extent allowed by law in all matters which affect them;

The Commission directs the Executive Director to review the agency's records management practices to assure that the public has access to all public records and documents to the full extent allowed by law;

The Commission directs the Executive Director to develop ways to ensure and enhance public involvement in the agency s administrative enforcement process and in civil proceedings involving enforcement actions of the agency;

The Commission directs the Executive Director to keep an information file for every formal complaint of a violation of the State's environmental laws and rules which is filed with or brought to the agency, and to ensure that parties are notified of the status of the complaint at least quarterly until final disposition, unless notice would jeopardize an investigation;

and The Commission directs staff to provide timely responses to comments received from the public on agency rules, permits and policy matters.