— Guest column by Gillian Malone
One of Wyoming’s major administrative agencies, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), unveiled a new website Sept. 8 that allows citizens to submit comments online via a web form.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council, a statewide citizens’ organization that has long urged DEQ to move forward with electronic comments, welcomes the change — which will allow Wyoming citizens greater opportunity to weigh in on the important decisions that impact their quality of life. While DEQ has yet to fully complete its rollout of the new website, there are currently six opportunities for electronically-submitted comments among the agency’s various divisions, including new proposed rules, DEQ’s statewide air quality monitoring plan, and other important agency activities.
Last April, after a five-year effort to get DEQ to make the switch to electronic comments, the PRBRC filed a rulemaking petition with the Environmental Quality Council that would require DEQ to accept email comments. At the time of our petition, DEQ was one of the last remaining state agencies that did not accept comments electronically — an absurd notion considering the digital age we live in.
While the Environmental Quality Council ultimately decided not to move forward with the our petition, a key part of that decision was DEQ’s declaration that the agency fully intended to develop its own web form for handling electronic comments. It is clear that our petition provided the impetus for DEQ’s action on this issue and helped it hold firm on its commitment to the public.
We commend DEQ on its initial action, and we look forward to the full rollout of a comment system — the sooner the better — that allows Wyomingites to comment on all pending environmental permits and rules by electronic means. In the meantime, we encourage our fellow citizens to check out the electronic comment opportunities the agency has by visiting the agency’s website.
DEQ’s decisions will only be improved with greater public involvement.
— Gillian Malone is the chairwoman of the Powder River Basin Resource Council board, a statewide organization of landowners and concerned citizens that work to preserve Wyoming’s quality of life and its air, land, and water quality. She lives in Big Horn.
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