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January 30, 2012

SRBC Modifies Public Participation Process and Will Reconsider December Actions

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has announced changes to its public participation process. It will now conduct a public hearing on project applications one month before the Commission acts on the projects. In accordance with these changes, the SRBC will conduct a public hearing on February 16 to accept public comments on water withdrawal and consumptive use project applications scheduled for action by SRBC at its next business meeting in mid-March. The SRBC will accept written comments on the project applications until February 27.

The project applications scheduled for the February 16 hearing include those that were approved at SRBC’s December 15, 2011 hearing in Wilkes-Barre. Pa. “The Commission has decided to reconsider its December action on those project applications because the disruptive behavior of certain individuals prevented interested persons from offering testimony at the time,” SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz said in the January 23, 2012, press release announcing the changes. “We are committed to preserving the due process rights of all citizens so they can provide constructive and meaningful comments on proposed projects.”

“Conducting a public hearing on project applications one month before the Commission acts on the projects is a new procedure and represents an improvement over our past practice,” said Swartz. “This change will give the public ample opportunities for commenting and will give the commissioners more time to review and consider comments before voting on proposed projects.”

The change is one of a several procedural changes recently adopted by the SRBC to its public participation process. Other changes include not accepting comments at its business meetings on project applications or other actions scheduled for vote, having the commission's business meetings streamed live via webcast and requiring that all persons attending the hearing must sign-in and show photo identification. Signage, posters, banners or other display media will be permitted only in designated areas. The press will be permitted to set up and use video and recording devices. The public will be permitted to use small, hand-held devices in a non-disruptive manner. The full set of procedures is available on SRBC’s web site at www.srbc.net/pubinfo/publicparticipation.htm.

The announcement of the new procedures comes following a letter to the SRBC submitted on December 22, 2011, by a group of environmental organizations. The letter pointed out that the Commission’s approval of water withdrawal applications at its December 15, 2011, meeting may not have been legally effective because the approvals occurred after the meeting was adjourned. The letter pointed out that by adjourning the meeting prematurely, the SRBC prevented the testimony of non-protesting members of the public who wished to testify on individual water withdrawal applications. The letter asserted that by not allowing public testimony and approving water permits off-the-record, the SRBC penalized the entire public and violated its own rules and procedures. For more about the SRBC's December 15, 2011, meeting, read our earlier post, SRBC Adopts Final Rulemaking on Gas Drilling, Ignores Concerns.

The hearing on the project applications to be considered at the SRBC's mid-March meeting is scheduled for February 16, 2012, Pennsylvania State Capitol, East Wing, Room 8E-B, Harrisburg, Pa., 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The list of project applications scheduled for comment and information on those applications is available on SRBC’s web site. Persons planning to present oral testimony at the public hearing are asked to notify SRBC prior to the hearing of their intent to testify and to indicate the project application(s) they plan to comment on. The notices are to be directed to Richard Cairo, General Counsel, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 1721 North Front Street, Harrisburg, PA, 17102, Phone: (717) 238-0423, ext 306, Fax: (717) 238-2436, E-Mail: rcairo@srbc.net. Written comments may be submitted via the internet or mailed or faxed to Mr. Cairo.

Posted by Rachel Treichler at 01/30/12 12:25 PM

 

 

Copyright 2013, Rachel Treichler

 

   


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New York Water Law covers legal developments relating to water in New York and in jurisdictions that may be influential in New York. The author, Rachel Treichler, practices law in the Finger Lakes region.
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