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August 2, 2005

the EPA and public involvement

On several occasions, the US Environmental Protection Agency has managed to involve a wide variety of citizens in addressing local problems. This approach was already evident in 1983, when EPA Administrator William Rickelshaus created a deliberative forum that allowed the citizens of Takoma, WA to make their own collective decision about whether to close a dangerous copper smelter at the cost of local jobs. Recently, EPA launched a Public Involvement website that summarizes the Agency's experience and provides questionnaires and other tools for practical use.

Perhaps the most interesting feature for a non-specialist is the list of case-studies, and particularly the cases of "community-based environmental protection." When environmental problems broaden beyond "point-sources" (such as factories and large sewage pipes) and include homes and small businesses, it is necessary to get whole communities involved in environmental protection. Participation must be voluntary or it will never work. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible to find common ground among people with different interests and cultures--for example, environmentalists and ranchers in the West. The by-product of such successful deliberations and collaborations can be stronger communities. The EPA's database is full of good examples.

August 2, 2005 6:47 AM | category: deliberation | Comments


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