EPA is issuing EPA Actions to better meet its responsibilities under Executive Order 12898 by increasing meaningful engagement of overburdened communities in EPA’s permitting process in a way that is transparent and provides national consistency while maintaining some regional flexibility. As some commenters noted, EPA already has a legal obligation to provide opportunities for public involvement in the permitting process. EPA believes, however, that in some circumstances it is appropriate to go beyond the minimum public involvement requirements of statutes and regulations to encourage the participation of communities that will be significantly impacted by a permit but that have historically been underrepresented in the permitting process.
Further, though EPA has discretion to increase the level of public outreach it makes to communities beyond the requirements found in statutes and regulations, EPA’s ability to perform outreach is constrained by its resources. EPA developed EPA Actions to more effectively target outreach resources for the most meaningful engagement, to provide guidance to its permitting programs in regional and headquarters offices in order to promote consistency and transparency in EPA’s permitting outreach planning, and to ensure that enhanced outreach is provided in situations where it may have an impact on potential permit outcomes. EPA believes that such transparency and consistency aids EPA in making more informed decisions, but also gives notice to the public of EPA’s considerations and encourages public engagement in the permitting process.