Public Comment: Scenario 2

A state environmental protection department’s bureau of mining, which regulates mineral extraction industries in the state, announces a proposed revision in a mining company’s operating permit. In accord with ‘sunshine’ requirements for permitting processes, the agency publishes the applicant’s proposal to mine deeper than its original permit allowed.

The mining company is asking the bureau to remove restrictions on the company’s operation at a specific site. The primary restriction prohibits mining at levels that might adversely affect local groundwater quantity and quality. The restriction is warranted in a region where well water supply varies according to groundwater conditions and where high-quality cold water trout fishing streams are fed by local springs near the mining site.

In response to the bureau’s call for comment on the mine operator’s request for permit revision, a local environmental conservation group, a local civic organization, a local affiliate of a national trout fishing advocacy group, local businesses, and numerous concerned citizens write letters. At the request of the civic organization, the agency holds a public meeting. The conservation group hires a professional stenographer (who is also a notary public) to transcribe the meeting. In addition, the group invites local news reporters. The meeting is well attended. The bureau officials, the mine operator, and residents of the region affected by the mine vigorously discuss the request to lift restrictions on the mine. After the meeting, the conservation group provides the transcript to the bureau as a written record of public comment. If there is litigation regarding this permit, the transcript will provide evidence.

In announcing its decision later, the agency says: “The many public comments the Department received regarding this application formed the basis for modifications to the permit revision and resulted in changes in [the mining company’s] proposed mining plan.” The bureau’s decision is to lift the primary restriction and allow deeper mining, but to require new modifications in the mining plan intended to protect groundwater conditions.

Example 2: Read comments about the issue provided by the Penns Valley Conservation Association. This is a technical analysis of a mining permit application. Prepared by a policy analyst for a local environmental conservation group, the comment is written by the group’s attorney.

Example 3: Read a letter from the Aaronsburg Civic Club. This is a letter by a citizens group requesting the pub­lic meeting described in the scenario, above.