Thank you for the opportunity to comment. My suggestions for improving the public participation guidelines for the regulatory processes of the Department of Environmental Quality (9 VAC 15-11) are to: 1) improve public accessibility, 2) deepen community engagement and 3) better incorporate environmental justice.
Stronger public accessibility could be achieved by: providing increased access to regulatory deadlines; providing more notice for upcoming decision-making timelines; offering step by step tutorials on agency and Board websites, and as part of public hearings, on how to navigate the public participation process; providing foreign language translation services, including sign language, for written materials and at hearings; and allowing submission of comments on regulatory processes via answering service or transcription.
Community engagement could be deepened by proactive outreach to communities if a regulatory decision will have real world consequences on their lives; working more closely with local health departments to improve community awareness and outreach for regulations which potentially include health impacts; and expanding ways for the public to learn about and participate in regulatory processes, including encouraging participation on a RAP.
Environmental justice could be better incorporated via working in closer collaboration with environmental justice communities; maintaining a list/map of environmental justice communities within the Commonwealth; and fully engaging the DEQ EJ Office to provide improved EJ processes, as mandated by the Environmental Justice Act.
Although the regulatory process is dense and seemingly opaque, the results of decisions made through these processes have direct consequences on Virginians.
Thank you for your consideration of my comments,