The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an initiative to help communities more effectively participate in government decisions related to land cleanup, emergency preparedness and response, and the management of hazardous substances and waste, according to an EPA press release. The Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) plan lays out specific steps EPA is taking to provide communities with better information and opportunities to understand and influence decisions on environmental cleanups. The purpose of the plan is to present guiding principles, goals and actions to enhance EPA’s relationships with communities from across the country while protecting human health and the environment.

“Transparency, access and public involvement are essential to meaningful and deliberate decision-making at EPA,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “Getting a diverse group of citizens — all with their own unique experiences and expertise — to provide their views and expertise to inform the decisions we make helps us better protect Americans where they live, work, play and learn."

Because many of EPA’s programs are delegated to states, EPA will seek a cooperative effort with state and local governments to better coordinate resources and efforts on this initiative. The plan includes activities that will help EPA:
  • Improve transparency and upfront collaboration with community stakeholders
  • Enhance technical assistance to communities
  • Explain the hazards of environmental problems to affected communities
  • Connect with communities that have been historically underrepresented in environmental decision-making
Through the initiative, EPA will help interested community members more effectively participate in EPA decision-making processes. The CEI implementation plan also details actions EPA is pursuing to more effectively explain the hazards of environmental problems to affected communities. Implementation of this plan will help EPA conduct timely decisions and actions that are reliably informed by the broad diversity of voices and interests in the communities we serve.

The plan is intended to be a working document and specific actions will be refined with ongoing feedback from communities and other stakeholders. EPA invites public comment on the plan, will frequently evaluate the initiative’s progress and results, and will regularly post this information on the agency’s Web site.

More information on the CEI and to comment on the plan: