Public Participation

Principle 14: Access to information.
Environmental Agencies should facilitate citizen access to relevant agency information, subject to reasonable rules.

Public participation in environmental enforcement is meaningful only if the public has the information necessary to make informed interventions. In line with legal and regulatory requirements, an EA should give civil society reasonable access to information on the activities of the agency and regulated community without prematurely revealing information on enforcement cases or compromising confidentiality. An EA should establish procedures for citizens to request and receive specific information via all available media within a reasonable timeframe, subject to rules on trade and national security secrets. Providing access to information encourages citizen participation in ensuring environmental compliance.

Principle 15: Stakeholder participation.
Environmental Agencies should provide clear mechanisms for stakeholder participation in decision-making on compliance and enforcement.

An EA should facilitate stakeholder involvement in governmental decision-making on enforcement and compliance plans, policies, and actions. Per legal requirements, an EA should devise administrative procedures for notice and comment on planned agency actions (e.g., permitting decisions) through clearly defined participation and consultation processes. EA decision-making should document and reflect due consideration of public comments.

Principle 16: Citizen enforcement.
Environmental Agencies should involve civil society in compliance monitoring and filing of complaints or lawsuits.

Civil society plays a vital role as an environmental watchdog. To promote citizen support in enforcement programs, EAs should establish effective mechanisms for citizen participation in compliance and enforcement, including citizen monitoring and citizen enforcement through the courts. In developing these mechanisms, EAs should safeguard the rights of persons subjected to enforcement actions.

An EA should support development of citizen monitoring activities that facilitate involvement by civil society in identifying and reporting instances of noncompliance. Agencies can equip individuals and citizen groups with the necessary knowledge and tools to assist with end-of-pipe and visual and ambient monitoring efforts. Agencies can also establish hotlines to support citizen participation.

Through cooperative support for citizen lawsuits, an EA can also leverage civil society support in enforcement actions. Through public interest litigation, courts can relax procedural requirements and allow cases that empower citizens and civil society organizations to confront violators and enforce standards.