The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is currently seeking feedback, suggestions, and input from citizens on the initial rollout of their Public Engagement Guidelines.
West Virginia Rivers Coalition encourages you to voice your thoughts on their proposed plan and suggest any changes that you believe will enhance public engagement and ensure community needs are heard and considered when designing, rolling out, and implementing projects and programs impacting our environment and public health.
Here are some questions that might help you personalize your feedback to DEP:
In our letter to DEP, WV Rivers recommends building upon the following foundational elements included in the Guidelines:
+ Emphasis on public outreach by engaging local media and environmental groups. We recommend outreach efforts that leverage DEP’s staff networks and existing community relationships, such as contacting watershed groups through the Basin Coordinators. In order to modernize public engagement tactics, it will be imperative to utilize creative methods of communication to ensure DEP is reaching impacted communities. Some of these methods include flyers, postcards, radio, and one-on-one outreach to community leaders. These outreach strategies should be supported by adequate staffing and budgets dedicated to public outreach. We also recognize that legislation might be needed to assist with modernizing public outreach and notice, and we want to explore ways that we could assist DEP and the WV Legislature with that effort.
+ Public meeting formats and public interaction that foster dialogue, education, and trust building. We are encouraged by DEP moving towards public meetings with town hall-style Q&A formats where everyone can hear all the questions and answers versus only relying on the one-way communication of a public hearing format. This enables a greater degree of education for citizens unclear on DEP’s authority and how the agency responds to community concerns. We appreciate DEP providing virtual participation options with appropriate accessibility technology along with in-person participation. These best practices should be instituted consistently across the agency. Also, DEP should explore the use of technologies to allow participation for those without access to high-speed internet, such as WhatsApp or message boards, during a meeting. We also suggest that sign language interpreters and language translation services be offered for all public meetings.
+ There is a benefit to handling public notices in a consistent manner to maximize public participation. All upcoming public meeting notices should be automatically posted on the DEP website’s homepage.
+ Need for customized strategies. The Guidelines rightfully point out that a “one-size fits all” approach to public participation will not be as successful when any given community’s unique circumstances and needs aren’t thoughtfully considered.
You can review the WVDEP's draft Public Engagement Guidelines here.
Deadline to comment: Wednesday, October 11!
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