Public Participation

Public engagement and participation is key to DNREC’s mission. Learn about public meetings and notices, secretary’s orders and other outreach initiatives in place across DNREC’s divisions to encourage public participation, as well as information on signing up for calendar alerts or other notifications.

The Environmental Permitting Process

DNREC is an executive state agency with the responsibility to protect both the environment of Delaware and the health of our residents. When certain types of commercial or industrial facilities want to open or change their operations in Delaware, they must obtain a permit (or permits) from DNREC for potentially polluting activities.

DNREC provides a guide to Delaware’s environmental permitting process as a web page and a two-page printable and sharable document in English, en Español and an Kreyòl Ayisyen. There is also a guide to Making Your Voice Heard (below, in these three languages), to help advocates craft meaningful input into the permitting process.

Though there are variations in some permitting programs — due to unique state and federal requirements — most environmental permitting processes follow the same general path.

A flow-chart outlining the steps in the environmental permitting process.

It starts with local land-use approval (if needed) and flows through a DNREC advisory process (in some cases), submitting a permit application, public notice of the application and, if required, a public hearing. Public input comes once a notice has been issued and in any public hearing stage.

Public Notices

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control publishes notices in Delaware newspapers to make the public aware of applications, permitting and regulatory decisions, enforcement actions, plans for cleanups and other actions.

The DNREC Public Notices webpage lists the most current public notices from DNREC and provides an opportunity to subscribe to receive alerts when public notices are posted.

Public Meetings

Notices of public meetings are posted on the state’s Public Meeting Calendar and on the DNREC calendar of events.

Public Hearings

DNREC public hearings allow the public to hear the details of specific regulatory and permitting matters and to submit comments.

The public hearings webpage includes information on public comment protocols, how to submit comments to the official record and a current list of public hearing dockets that are open for comment.

Secretary’s Orders

Secretary’s Order is a written decision by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to take a final action on behalf of the Department.

Secretary’s Orders include Regulatory Orders, Permitting Orders and Enforcement Orders.

Outreach and Initiatives

Some Environmental Justice programs in DNREC highlight our commitment to typically under-served and under-represented communities, and serve as examples of how, working together, we can see positive progress in resolving issues. Examples include:

The Clean Water Initiative includes at least $1.6 million for use in the development, administration and implementation of a clean water financing program to benefit low-income and traditionally underserved communities through lower interest rates and affordability grants.

In addition, the Community Septic Outreach Initiative identifies low- and moderate-income homeowners in the Chesapeake and Inland Bay Watersheds that may need financial assistance to replace failed and/or failing septic systems.

DNREC has conducted several community air quality monitoring projects using its moveable monitoring platform, which is a van that can be staged as needed to conduct monitoring throughout the state.

In some cases, DNREC conducted direct outreach to communities, including attending community meetings to discuss and answer questions about upcoming projects and including permit conditions to address community concerns in certain cases.

The Air Quality Index

During the peak ozone season (May thorugh September), the Air Quality Index, known as the AQI, tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.

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