Public Notice Requirements Can Take More Time and Effort Than Expected…
We have all heard the jokes like “How many engineers/lawyers/bureaucrats etc. does it take to change a light bulb.” The basic premise is that the task is very simple, and rather than following the straightforward approach, these professionals overcomplicate the process. The purpose of a public notice is simply to inform the public that a permit has been applied for and is undergoing review, or that the final permit is about to be issued. There are public notices for many kinds of permits, water discharge permits, air permits and hazardous waste facility permits, but they all have the same purpose.
Unfortunately there are many ways to overcomplicate this process. One way to complicate the process is to have a slightly different process for each separate type of permit. Another way to complicate the process is to specify every aspect of the process (the basis of many “how many engineers does it take” jokes). As an example, for Air Permits in Texas, there is a process to determine whether or not a public notice is required in an alternative language like Spanish. You can’t skip this process and just do the Spanish notice to be covered, you still have to go through the process and fill out the checklist. The checklist requires you to contact the area school district and determine whether there is a “mandatory bilingual education” program in the district. Then you have to determine whether there are students attending the bilingual education program in the elementary school or middle school nearest to the facility being permitted. If there are not, then you have to determine whether they are attending another bilingual program at another school in the district. If not, then you have to determine whether the district has a waiver to have an English as a Second Language (ESL) program in lieu of the bilingual education program, and you should obtain a copy of that waiver for your records. It takes understanding of the process and time to complete these required steps.
And by the way, staying in Texas, at the end of the public notice period for a Title V renewal or initial permit issuance, you have to fill out a form called a “Public Notice Verification Form” certifying you followed all the required procedures. At the same time as this, A Responsible Official (RO) or Designated Authorized Representative (DAR) also has to sign another form called an “OP-CRO1 Form” and the purpose of this form is to confirm that you have certified the “Public Notice Verification Form”!
Every state has its own unique requirements for public notices, and every type of permit has different requirements. If you don’t get this process right, this can cost your company more valuable time in commencing operations.
It takes time, diligence, the ability to take criticism well, and sometimes a lot of patience to coordinate a public notice. The instructions for the public notices are lengthy and very detailed. Busy EHS Coordinators or Corporate Environmental Managers usually do not have the time to devote to it, and sometimes it’s better to outsource this to your Media/Public Relations department, or an outside consultant
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