Almost all governmental processes for planning and permitting allow for public participation. The two most common methods of participation are through speaking and asking questions at public meetings or hearings, and by submitting written comments directly to the agency. How and when these activities are conducted will vary based on the type of planning and permitting question being considered by the agency officials. However, it is important that citizens take any and all opportunities to participate in the process.
When can I offer input on a new rule?
- During the public comment period: The Notice of Intent appears on the 20th of each month. You can submit comments starting on that day and ending 7 days after the public hearing.
- At the public hearing.
- After the public comment period, comments can also be made directly to the LOC on the Summary Report.
Submitting questions at a public hearing or through public comments will officially record citizens comments into the agency’s record. The regulatory agency is required to respond to citizen comments.
If at any point during a planning or permitting process you have questions about your rights as a citizen when it comes to open meetings and public records, The Public Affairs Research Council publishes a Citizen’s Rights printable card. You can download this card at: http://www.parlouisiana.com/citizensrightscard.cfm
Open Meetings Law
Louisiana’s Constitution provides in Art. XII, Section 3 that “no person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law. “A body of law known as the ‘open meetings law’ was enacted by the Legislature and provided that, it is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy….” That body of law, LSA-R.S. 42:11 through LSA-R.S. 42:28, by its own terms, must be construed liberally.
Although planning and permitting processes can vary, they all have opportunities for public comment. As an example, consider a proposed change to a rule or regulation under the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ). First, a Notice of Intent is published, which informs the public of the intent and schedules a public hearing on the topic 30-45 days past the publication. The public comment period is usually closed seven days after the public hearing. Once the comment period is closed, LDEQ submits a Summary Report detailing all public comments and any amendments to the proper Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC). The LOC then has 30 days to consider the rule. If approved, LDEQ submits the rule to be written into the Louisiana Administrative Code.
At whatever stage the permit or rule is in, effective commenting on behalf of the citizen is crucial to your voice being heard. At public meetings, always be courteous to those around you and try to stay within allotted time limits. For written comments, type your comments and use any identifying numbers or the formal name of the plan or permit if possible. In either circumstance, always give reasons as to why you support or do not support a rule or permit, tell how it affects you, and offer alternative solutions if possible.
To keep informed of LDEQ public notices, monthly regulation changes, and other important environmental announcements, sign up for state email notifications. Go to Louisiana.gov and sign up for email notifications in the “Services” section of the website. There you can choose the topics for which you would like to receive notifications. You also may write any state agency and request that a copy of all public notices be mailed to you, whether state wide or just within your parish.
The Louisiana Citizens’ Guide To Environmental Engagement