Wyoming DEQ employee Muthu Kuchanur at work. DEQ, which oversees protections of land, water, air, and solid wastes, recently upgraded to an online public comment system. (courtesy Wyoming DEQ)

— 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.

Gillian Malone, board chairwoman of the Powder River Basin Resource Council

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.

— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

 

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  1. Seriously? What family member got the job of setting up a comment website? Especially since we already know y’all don’t truly care what the rest of us have to say. If you did I wouldn’t be passing a petition around just so we can vote on it, it would have already been put on a ballot. But I have grown up and realize, it is all about money, not caring for the people, not caring for the land, not caring for the animals on that land, only care about your wallet, those kids of yours getting better air to breathe and better schools than the rest of us. Yea, real fair state my arse.

    Nadine Girouard

  2. It’s the message , not the medium of transmittal.
    Which is to say it does not matter if an informed public comment is dispatched to Wyoming DEQ by certified letter, a screed on a company letterhead , fax machine , by the magic of E-mail or a series of chirps in Morse code, or even smoke signals.

    What matters is if Wy-DEQ takes the message to task and actually considers it. Regardless of the medium , will Wyoming DEQ apparatchiks incorporate comments into the policymaking process or regulatory regimen. Will comments be ” weighted” according to the heft of source or mass of clout behind it? Will comment be relegated to a verbose document appendix in a ‘ File and Forget’ process as chaff or fluff? Are publi comments merely glanced at sideways from across the smoke filled backroom as lobbyists and industry reps surround the DEQ employee and start sucking the oxygen out of the room ?

    My point is the PRBRC lady says electronic submissions will increase public involvement in DEQ decision making. And I say only if DEQ reads them and acts on them.

    My skepticism and observation over the years tells me that many if not most Wyoming state agencies have very selective eyes and ears, and special interests have undue sway in the making of the sausage.

    Nothing so far tells me that electronic submissions from Joe B. Public will get any more consideration than smoke signals.

    Dewey Vanderhoff