If SOPA Plus Comments is Not Enough, Then What Is a Reasonable Minimum Public Involvement Requirement?

We’ve discussed the draft NEPA regs previously here and here. Right now they don’t include REQUIRING scoping for CE’s and EA’s, and I can understand that as I don’t think many other agencies require it (although they still do it). Here’s an interesting BLM document that talks about internal and external scoping. I tend to be for ideas that harmonize BLM and FS procedures as they make life easier for employees to go back and forth and for the public to understand on interspersed ownerships.

I think, based on the draft reg, that what they are REQUIRING is posting on the SOPA, and the ability for people to comment on the projects in the SOPA by writing in (aided possibly by an email list to interested folks when a new SOPA is posted) (but I could be wrong). But I think it might be useful to look at a real SOPA (the last one I looked at happened to be for the Stanislaus) and here’s the link.

What exactly does the requirement for scoping add, or not, that FS folks would not otherwise do? It seems to me that there are at least three schools of thought (1) line officers will always do the right thing (2) line officers will never do the right thing (that’s how TWS came up with 93.5% with no public involvement, although SOPA plus comments could be considered public involvement), and (3) there is a base level that is more than SOPA plus comments, but less than requiring scoping, that we can imagine and describe, that would leave flexibility but not allow the minimalist line officers to get out of things they should be doing to involve the public.

Given this real world SOPA, what do you think/imagine would be a good minimum requirement? Or do you think it should vary by category of CE or ???

1 thought on “If SOPA Plus Comments is Not Enough, Then What Is a Reasonable Minimum Public Involvement Requirement?”

  1. The definition of “SOPA” includes notice that a decision document “would be or has been prepared.” Notice that a decision has been made would not provide a meaningful ability for people to comment on whether a category is applicable or whether there are extraordinary circumstances (in either case precluding a CE).

    The requirement for scoping was added to the CEQ regulations to improve the efficiency of the NEPA process by identifying the important issues, so I question how it would improve efficiency to reduce the amount of scoping. Especially if you think of how it promotes development of an administrative record that can be used to defend the agency’s determinations when they get sued.

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