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Indiana Department of Environmental Management

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Chapter 2: Table of Contents

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Chapter 2 - Section IV: Public Comment

  • What is public comment?
    • Prior to making final decisions about certain permits or actions, state law requires IDEM to provide time for the public to submit comments. A public comment period is held to allow time for interested parties to submit questions, opinions, or concerns about agency actions. Comments can be in favor or against an action.
  • How can the public submit comments?
    • The public may mail written comments to IDEM at the address provided in the public notice.
    • The public may provide oral comments by speaking at a public hearing, where all statements are officially recorded.
    • The public may submit written questions and comments during public meeting or information sessions. Oral questions and comments may not be officially recorded during informal meetings or information sessions.
  • When can the public submit comments?
    • Public comments should be submitted during the official public comment period. Public comment periods are usually between 21 and 45 days. The length of time will be detailed in the public notice.

What is a public comment?

Public comments can be questions, opinions, concerns or information concerning an issue, activity or project. Prior to making final decisions about certain permits or actions, state law requires IDEM to provide time for the public to submit comments.

What is the purpose of a public comment?

IDEM protects Hoosiers and their environment. As a Hoosier, you have a right to be involved in decisions that may affect you. A formal public comment period offers you the opportunity to do just that. The purpose of the public comment period is to allow any member of the public to add their voice to the decision-making process.

How long does a public comment period last?

The length of the public comment period will be stated in the public notice. Most IDEM public comment periods are for 30 calendar days, beginning with the day after the public notice first appears. If the 30th day of a public comment period falls on a weekend day, state holiday, or other day when state governmental offices are closed, then the public comment period will end on the close of the next day on which state offices are open for business. Although most IDEM public notice periods are for 30 days, some comment periods can be as short as 21 days, and others as long as 45 days. Comment periods are often determined by state or federal rules or requirements.

Upon request, some IDEM programs holding public comment periods may agree to extend the public comment period beyond 30 days. Such extensions, when granted, generally add an additional seven to 15 days, during which public comment will be accepted. Again, it is left to the particular program area (air, water, or waste) whether to grant an extension, and the length of the extension generally varies from program to program. In addition, the person seeking an extension may be required to demonstrate why the extra time is needed. Such requests must be made through the contact person listed in the public notice.

If IDEM agrees to a request for a formal hearing either during or after the public comment period, IDEM may extend the public comment period or an additional comment period may be held in association with the hearing. The opportunity to submit comments also may be extended for a few days after the hearing in order to give persons who attended the hearing, or who learned new information at the hearing, additional time to submit comments.

How can you comment on environmental rules or permits?

Preparing to comment

Knowing specifically when to get involved in IDEM’s rulemaking and permitting processes is easy if you have the tools you need. The more information you have on a particular activity or a facility that might be proposed in your community, the more informed you can become about regulations prior to commenting. IDEM provides multiple avenues for reviewing permit documents and learning more about environmental protection efforts in Indiana through a number of Internet resources and through IDEM’s Central File Room.

Internet resources

The sites below can be used to find a variety of information, including permit applications, issued permits and other information about activities in your community.

  • Air monitoring - View data from IDEM’s various air monitoring locations around the state.
  • Air permits overview – find general information and links for IDEM air permitting issues.
  • Air Quality Permit Status Search - Access air permit status information and download permit documents. This online resource is linked directly to IDEM's Office of Air Quality permit tracking system and is updated daily, providing near real-time information to the public. Interested parties can search for permits by a combination of source name, county, permit type, SIC code, permit milestone dates, and permit ID.
  • Community Information Search – Through this IDEM Web page, access U.S. EPA’s Envirofacts, Enviromapper, and Surf Your Watershed Web sites to better understand what is going on in your neighborhood.
  • Compliance and Technical Assistance Program – IDEM works to ensure all Hoosier businesses understand and can meet their responsibilities. Learn more from IDEM’s Compliance and Technical Assistance Program.
  • Continuous Air Quality Monitoring - Visit IDEM’s Continuous Air Quality Monitoring Web site and explore IDEM’s LEADS site, an IDEM e-Service that brings near real-time air quality data to the public.
  • Drinking Water Watch – View drinking water quality information for your community.
  • e-Services - From this page, you can access IDEM’s available information and data management services. The services listed can provide you direct access to more than 25 million virtual documents and files, allow you to complete a permit or regulatory application online, or even view public data from an agency database.
  • Emergency response – Learn how IDEM’s Emergency Response Section works to protect public health and mitigate harm during spill events and environmental emergencies.
  • Enforcement Database – Get a list of enforcement activities in your county or find specific information about regulated entities.
  • Environmental clean-up - learn more about IDEM’s programs for overseeing clean-up activities.
  • Land permits – find general information and links about requirements for land quality permitting programs and handling, hauling and disposing of solid waste.
  • LEADS – Visit IDEM’s Continuous Air Quality Monitoring Web site, an IDEM e-Service that brings near real-time air quality data to the public.
  • News, notices and events – Find “what’s new” at IDEM, including events, news and notices.
  • Recycle Indiana – From help with the disposal of unwanted medicines to recycling superheroes, visit Recycle Indiana to learn more.
  • Regulatory Services Portal (RSP) – Through RSP, one of IDEM’s e-Services, customers can electronically submit notifications, applications and data directly to the agency’s database system, eliminating potential data entry errors while increasing efficiency. RSP currently has two services available: 401 Water Quality Certification and Community Right to Know (SARA Title III). Many more IDEM services will be made available via the RSP during the next few months.
  • Environmental reporting – learn about emissions reporting, leaking underground storage tank reporting, the federal Toxic Release Inventory and stay more informed about activities in your community.
  • Subscriptions.IN.gov - Sign up to receive e-mail and wireless updates from IDEM – scroll down and sign up for information under “Environmental Management, Department of.”
  • Virtual File Cabinet - IDEM’s Virtual File Cabinet (VFC) is another IDEM e-Service, containing public records in an electronic format that can be accessed on-line, 24 hours per day. Documents are being added daily. The entire catalog of IDEM public records will be available by June 2009. The VFC features a simple, fill-in-the-blanks interface, much like any basic search engine. You can choose to search by various categories including facility information, document information or by using the enhanced search feature. Instructions are provided on the Virtual File Cabinet Web site. Or more information about accessing public records, visit IDEM’s Web page on records.
  • Water monitoring – Become more familiar with programs that help assess the health of our waterways and the aquatic life they support.
  • Water permits – find general information about drinking water, wastewater, storm water and wetlands permit issues.
  • IDNR Water Well Record Database (DNR) – View Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) records of wells drilled in Indiana.
  • The Indiana Register - The Indiana Register is published on the Internet and provides the full text of proposed rules, final rules, and other documents, such as Executive Orders and Attorney General’s Opinions. The User’s Guide for the Indiana Register database offers a tutorial on the Indiana Register and information about its relationship to the Indiana Administrative Code.
  • U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) – From U.S. EPA, a searchable database for researching the compliance and enforcement histories of regulated facilities.
  • U.S. EPA Enviromapper – U.S. EPA wizard that helps you search for environmental information in your community.
  • U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory – Search this U.S. EPA database of the toxic releases reported by companies throughout the nation.
  • U.S. EPA Envirofacts Data Warehouse - a single point of access to select U.S. EPA environmental data. This Web site provides access to several U.S. EPA databases to provide you with information about environmental activities that may affect air, water, and land anywhere in the United States. With Envirofacts, you can learn more about these environmental activities in your area or you can generate maps of environmental information.
  • U.S. EPA Environmental Databases – A list from U.S. EPA of environmental data available online, often in databases searchable by ZIP code.
IDEM's Centralized File Room

The public may visit IDEM’s Central File Room to view public records. IDEM Central File Room hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays. The Central File Room is located in the Indiana Government Center North, Room 1201, at 100 North Senate Avenue, in Indianapolis. For more information, visit IDEM’s Web page on records or contact Central File Room staff at (317) 234-0965 or (800) 451-6027, ext. 4-0965.

For general information about accessing public records and the requirements of the Indiana Access to Public Records Act, contact the state of Indiana's public access counselor at (800) 228-6013 or (317) 233-9435, or visit the Public Access Counselor Web site.

Legal Resources

Indiana’s environmental regulations are available for the public to review, as are our federal environmental regulations. Following are links for Indiana’s environmental statutes (found under the Indiana Code), Indiana’s administrative rules (found under the Indiana Administrative Code), as well as other state and federal resources.

How to comment

You may comment in favor, voice opposition, raise questions, or share concerns about how a proposed activity could affect you, your family, and your neighborhood or the environment. You may take the opportunity to request that certain requirements or conditions be included in a permit. Regardless of your position, permit decisions are more likely to be influenced by factual comments that reference specific laws, rules, and regulations, technical or scientific information, or information about special considerations at a proposed site. In addition, comments need to address the issue described in the public notice. Public notices provide instructions for submitting written comments to IDEM. Where IDEM holds formal public hearings, oral (spoken) comments are accepted in addition to written comments.

Written comments

To submit a public comment, simply put your thoughts in writing and submit them to the address provided in the public notice. Written comments also may be submitted during a public hearing or public meeting, if one is being held. If you do need wish to attend a scheduled public hearing or meeting, all can participate simply by mailing your written comments to IDEM, per the instructions of the public notice.

Oral comments

Members of the public may present comments orally, if they wish to, during formal public hearings. An official transcript of the hearing is prepared and included in the public record. To ensure an accurate record of all oral comments, however, individuals who wish to speak at public hearings typically are also asked to submit a written copy of their comments. While many public meetings provide an opportunity for the public to speak, an official transcript is not maintained.

When can you comment?

Public comment periods

Certain permitting decisions and other actions require an official public comment period: in those cases, the agency works in a number of ways to notify the public about the dates comments will be accepted, the address for mailing or delivering written comments, whether a public hearing has been scheduled, and contact information for a staff person who can answer questions from the public. Where public participation is not legally required but there is significant public interest, IDEM may work in a number of ways to keep the public informed and enable interested parties to provide feedback. For more information, see “How are public notices issued,” under Section II on Public Notices in this Chapter.

Public hearings

A public hearing is a formal proceeding that provides the public with the opportunity to submit written and oral comments in a formal setting. Formal official public meetings involve a court reporter or tape recorder documenting all questions and comments. A hearing officer presides over hearings and following a hearing, the court reporter prepares a hearing transcript. IDEM makes the hearing transcript, with responses, available to the public announcing the final decision on a proposed action. Where public hearings are not automatically required, there may be the opportunity for the public to request one. In such cases, IDEM will carefully weigh the issues and make a final determination about whether a formal hearing will enhance public participation.

Public meetings

Public meetings are informal meetings with the public during which IDEM staff present information and answer questions about a proposed action. A public meeting promotes dialogue and discussion, and permit staff try to respond directly to questions from the public. Oral questions and responses are informal at a public meeting. IDEM does not document or provide written responses to questions and comments addressed during a meeting. However, the public may submit written comments during a public meeting or at any point during a public.

In some cases, an informal public meeting will be held immediately before a public hearing, to allow permit applicants and/or IDEM staff to present information and help answer questions in a group setting.

Public availability sessions

A public availability session is the least formal meeting setting. Designed like an open house, staff will provide and be available to discuss literature, maps and documents one-on-one with the public.

Special accommodations

Individuals requiring reasonable accommodations for participation in an event should contact the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator at:

ADA Coordinator
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
100 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2251

Or call (317) 233-0855 (V) or (317) 232-6565 (TTD). Speech and hearing impaired callers may contact the agency via the Indiana Relay Service at 711 or 1-800-743-3333. Please provide a minimum of 72 hours notification.

Webinars

Technological advances have made it possible for IDEM staff to educate and involve the community on an array of environmental topics. Through Webinars, also known as Web conferences, individuals can take part in a public meeting from a remote location using a computer and an Internet connection. IDEM provides the public access to environmental board meetings in Indianapolis through Webinars. Contact IDEM’s Media and Communications office at (317) 232-8500 to learn more.