Saturday, March 21, 2020

DEP Expands Use Of Online Tools, Conference Calls To Hold Public Meetings, Hearings

The Department of Environmental Protection is now holding more of its advisory committee meetings, hearings and day-to-day business online or through conference calls, adapting to the social distancing requirements imposed as a result of the coronavirus.
DEP had been using services like WebEx and Skype to allow the public to remotely join meetings of advisory committees or to hold webinars to hear the discussion and see the presentation slides.  There are also options for asking questions. DEP has not used the video option for viewing the meetings.
But, get used to having more of these sessions in the weeks ahead, including some of the first uses of these tools in place of in-person hearings to collect public comments.   
And joining the meetings DEP holds using WebEx or Skype is free, but you have to download a plug-in for your browser.
Another service used frequently by Penn State Extension, for example, is Zoom which has the same basic features as WebEx and Skype and is used for webinars.  
DEP has also used the more traditional telephone conference call to allow the public to listen to advisory committee discussions, like DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council meetings.
These tools, coupled with more attention to posting presentations to advisory committees online before the meeting, will provide more workable alternatives to in-person meetings as the threat from the coronavirus continues.
Look on the PA Environment Digest Calendar of Events for how to join meetings and hearings using these methods.
Public Comments
DEP also had an online tool-- the eComment webpage-- for accepting public comments online or by email for some time. This is in addition to the traditional snail mail, which is a problem since DEP’s offices are closed.
The other advantage of the system is can see the comments posted by others.
Did you know DEP can send you email notices of permit applications submitted in your community?  Notice of new technical guidance documents and regulations as they move through the public review process?  
It’s all done through DEP’s eNotice system.  Click Here to sign up.
You can use some of your at-home time now to familiarize yourself with these services.
For more information on environmental programs in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s website, Click Here to sign up for DEP’s newsletter, sign up for DEP Connects events, sign up for DEP’s eNotice, visit DEP’s BlogLike DEP on Facebook, Follow DEP on Twitter and visit DEP’s YouTube Channel.
[Posted: March 21, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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