Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Public Participation Manual

EPA believes that all stakeholders in RCRA permitting actions have a role in providing for meaningful public participation. Each stakeholder group -regulators, public interest organizations, community members and regulated facilities - can take steps to increase participation and improve communication. Federal and state agencies administer RCRA and its public participation activities, though members of communities and owners/operators of hazardous waste management facilities also play an integral role in the permitting process. The RCRA Public Participation Manual describes activities that EPA hopes will empower all groups to maximize their role in this process.

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What is the RCRA Public Participation Manual?

The 2016 edition of the RCRA Public Participation Manual is intended as a “user’s manual.” It explains how public participation works in the RCRA permitting process (including corrective action), and how community members, regulators and industry can collaborate to make it more effective. The manual reviews regulatory requirements, and provides policy guidance that further implements the RCRA program. In addition, the updated manual describes a wide assortment of activities to enhance public participation, highlights the use of digital and social media, provides a guide to integrate public participation into the permit modification process, and incorporates lessons learned and best practices. It furthers EPA’s commitment to promoting community involvement and transparency.

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Who should use the RCRA Public Participation Manual?

Public participation is generally everybody’s responsibility. The manual provides detailed descriptions for dozens of public participation techniques - required and optional, formal and informal.

  • Regulators - The manual provides specific details about public participation requirements and outlines EPA's current policies. It also explains activities to help you provide better information to the public, and to invite more public input into RCRA permitting work. The manual provides tips for opening up dialogue with other stakeholders, for assessing communities and being sensitive to their concerns, and for planning public participation strategies.
  • Individual Residents and Communities or the Public - The manual clearly describes the many public participation activities required by federal RCRA permitting regulations. It also points out steps that agencies, facility owners/operators and public interest groups may take to provide more public input into the permitting process. It includes useful tips on interacting with other stakeholders and conducting public involvement activities.
  • Hazardous Waste Facilities (treatment, storage and disposal facilities) and Corrective Action sites (regulated facilities) - The manual describes when and how to conduct public participation events required by RCRA. It describes opportunities facility owner/operators can provide that go beyond the requirements, as well as insights into how to cooperate and communicate with other stakeholders. The manual will be helpful to many that have or are setting up public participation programs.

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How to Build a Foundation for Successful Public Participation

The 2016 RCRA Public Participation Manual offers in-depth information on the community member’s role, as well as key considerations when planning public participation activities like what to do when there are limited resources. It addresses the importance of effectively communicating risk, and it provides information for assessing and addressing environmental justice and tribal concerns. The manual also offers resources for assessing and responding to technical assistance needs.

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Public Participation During the RCRA Permitting Process

The 2016 edition of the RCRA Public Participation Manual gives specific details about public participation requirements and outlines EPA’s current policies. It describes the steps in the permit decision-making process, from the pre-application stage through the application stage, the preparation of the draft permit, and the final permit design in the RCRA permitting process. The manual also includes information on public participation during the life of a permit and permit modifications, as well as information on closure and post-closure at both permitted and interim status facilities.

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Public Participation in RCRA Corrective Action

The RCRA Public Participation Manual provides an overview of public participation in corrective action, including special considerations for public participation activities under section 3008(h) orders. The manual also includes information on initial site assessment (i.e., RCRA Facility Assessment or RFA), site characterization (i.e., RCRA Facility Investigation or RFI), interim actions, evaluation of remedial alternatives (i.e., Corrective Measures Study or CMS), remedy implementation (i.e., Corrective Measures Implementation or CMI) and completion of remedy.

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RCRA Public Participation Activities

The RCRA Public Participation Manual gives background and information on public participation plans, and how to assess the community to plan for participation. The manual also provides checklists for Environmental Justice Public Participation and general public participation activities.

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