I wanted to share my experience testifying at the Board of Environmental Protection hearing last week. The hearing was to get public input on proposed changes in the manner in which permits are issued for development in “moderate” value inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat (IWWH). The premise was that the current process was cumbersome, expensive, and too unpredictable, although as was pointed out every application since 2007 has been approved! The proposed change would allow the “permit by rule” process to be used, obviating the need for a more extensive permitting process. Such a change could allow subdivisions up to 14 houses, major commercial development, as well as single-family homes. NRCM took a position that streamlining the process for single-family homes made sense, but that more substantial development should certainly have a more in depth review.
Following a brief introduction by the board chair and an overview by the DEP staff, testimony began. The chair decided to have those neither for nor against go first, followed by those in favor of the proposed changes, and finally those opposed. For most hearings, especially those with a larger group of people interested in testifying, there is a signup sheet. Unless you want to be there for the entire hearing, signing up is the best way to make sure you have a timely opportunity to speak.
Unless you have technical expertise, try to keep your remarks brief, personalized and focused. It is a good idea to bring a handout, usually 20 copies, of your remarks, especially if you are referring to any graphics. Be prepared to answer questions about your testimony and avoid any hyperbole, which could weaken the credibility of your remarks. (Link to my testimony attached.)
The hearing went well, and you will be pleased but not surprised to know that our staff scientist, Nick Bennett, did an outstanding job. There were many technical features to this regulation, and Nick clearly and concisely outlined the history of how we got where we are and explained the rationale behind NRCM’s opposition to the current proposal, and finally our suggestion to amend it.
There were several citizens testifying who felt aggrieved by the current regulation, and Nick pointed out that their situation was the result of municipal ordinances which in some cases are more restrictive than state regulations and that their frustration was misplaced.
The second half of the legislative biennium will convene soon, and we all will have opportunity to testify on many issues. I hope as many of you as possible will take advantage of this and make your feelings and suggestions known. There is no more powerful way to have an impact.
Finally, I hope as many of you as possible will join me and our fellow board members in generously supporting NRCM in your year-end giving. Thanks, and Happy Holidays.
Tony Owens, MD
President, NRCM Board of Directors