Public participation, as well as public affairs and community involvement activities, are necessary for Department of the Navy (DON) Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) response actions. Community involvement promotes communication between the public and DON concerning the status of remediation at installations.
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Public involvement is required at specific stages of response actions by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) provisions. Recognizing the importance of proactive communications, DON’s community involvement requirements are more comprehensive than the minimum CERCLA requirements. DON responsibilities during the response action process include informing the community of any action taken, responding to inquiries, and providing information about any releases of hazardous substances.
DON supports community involvement in the ERP through various channels, including:
- Information Repositories and Administrative Records
- Community Involvement Plans (CIPs)
- Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs)
- Department of Defense (DoD) Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP)
Information Repositories and Administrative Records
An information repository contains current information, technical reports, and reference materials regarding an Environmental Restoration (ER) site. It is usually located at a public library and is established at the beginning of site studies to provide the public with easily accessible information. Access to and use of the information repository is a key element promoting public participation in the selection of a response action.
The Administrative Record File (AR File) contains finalized documents, which form the basis for the selection of the response action. The AR File is the basis for judicial review of any issue concerning the adequacy of any response action. The types of documents typically included in the AR File are provided in the NAVFAC Environmental Restoration Program Recordkeeping Manual. To learn more, view the Information Management & Reporting webpage. The ERP Administrative Records can also be searched online for active and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) installations.
Community Involvement Plans (CIPs)
DON requires a formal Community Involvement Plan (CIP) at all installations with ER sites, regardless if they are on the National Priorities List (NPL). The CIP provides a strategy for meaningful community involvement throughout the CERCLA cleanup process. CIPs are prepared and implemented on an installation-wide basis rather than for a specific ER action. The CIP is based on information gathered from the community through interviews with local stakeholders to ascertain community concerns, community information needs, and how or when citizens would like to be involved in the CERCLA process. At a minimum, CIPs are typically updated every 5 years.
Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs)
RABs are part of DON’s efforts to expand community involvement in decisions about environmental response actions at DON installations. RABs are citizen advisory panels that provide ideas and suggestions for the success of the ERP at individual installations. Each panel is made up of voluntary representatives from the community, DoD, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and local, tribal, and state governmental agencies. RAB meetings are open to the general public.
By establishing a RAB, DON hopes to ensure that interested stakeholders can actively participate in a timely and thorough manner in the planning and implementation of the ER process. A RAB serves as one method for the expression and careful consideration of diverse points of view. By bringing together people who reflect the many diverse interests within the community, a RAB can help identify issues of concern and reduce potential communication issues. In addition to providing input on cleanup activities, each RAB acts as a liaison between the community and the installation per the DoD Environmental Justice Strategy.
More information can be found in the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO’s) Guidance on Establishment of RABs (5090 Ser 453C/4U596021). The Commanding Officer of the installations or BRAC Program Management Office will establish and conduct periodic meetings of the RAB in accordance with the detailed guidance provided in the DoD “RAB Rule” (71 FR 27610). This rule addresses the overall scope, characteristics, composition, funding, establishment, operation, and adjournment/dissolution of RABs.
Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP)
Opportunities for technical assistance through the DoD TAPP program are made available to RAB community members. TAPP provides funding for RABs to obtain independent (third-party) technical expertise to assist them in understanding or evaluating technical documents, concepts, or other information related to restoration activities. Community members of a RAB may ask the Commanding Officer or Commanding General (or appropriate DON official) for this type of assistance and apply for funding using the TAPP Application Form (DD Form 2749).