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Public Comment Protocols

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is committed to listening to all public comments on matters brought before the Department in DNREC public hearings. To ensure order, fairness, and efficiency, the Department offers the following protocols for its public hearings.

Notice: Due to the current State of Emergency, all DNREC public hearings will be virtual hearings until further notice. Until the Emergency has passed, live comments will not be accepted during virtual hearings and those parts of the information below pertaining to live comments do not apply.

Public hearings provide a formal platform for the public to comment on specific matters, and for their comments to be incorporated into a formal hearing record.

All comments must be limited solely to the subject matter of the hearing (i.e., proposed regulations, pending permit applications, etc.).

Each person wishing to offer comment at the hearing is asked to do so in as precise a manner as possible.

In order treat everyone equally and impartially, each person will be allotted a total of three minutes of time in which to offer his or her comments.

To ensure fairness with regard to the amount of time each person is given, a visual timer will be in place to help commenters be aware of how much time is left while providing their comment.  This time allotment will be strictly enforced to make sure that everyone is treated equally, and that everyone who wishes to offer comment for the record is afforded an opportunity to do so.

All comments bear equal weight, whether they are offered verbally at the time of the hearing, or submitted to the Department in writing outside of the actual time of the hearing. 

If a comment is not offered verbally at the time of the hearing, it must be submitted to the Department in writing.

Comments must be received during the time period that the hearing record is open for receipt of public comment in order to be given consideration by the DNREC Secretary.

Written comments on public hearing matters may only be submitted as follows:

Written comments to DNREC may not be submitted using social media platforms, such as Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, or text messaging.

If a person has already submitted written comment to the Department for inclusion into the hearing record prior to the time of the hearing, it is already in the record.  Therefore, it is not necessary to offer the same comment verbally at the actual hearing.

If prepared written comment is brought to the hearing by the commenter, it can be entered into the hearing record at the hearing.  The commenter may then use their three minutes of comment time to summarize their written comment verbally for those in attendance.

There will be no yielding of time from one person to another, to ensure fairness and equality for each person wishing to offer comment.

Consistent with current Delaware law, all persons wishing to offer verbal comment at the hearing must be physically present in order to be recognized.  Those unable to appear physically at the hearing may submit their comments in writing for inclusion into the hearing record, as described above.

Any person who is physically present at the hearing may be permitted to read into the hearing record the comments of someone who is absent, provided that the person who is present making the comments fully identifies the person on whose behalf such comment is being given.  Upon such an occurrence, the three-minute time limit applies to the person speaking on another person’s behalf.  In other words, no one will be granted three minutes to provide their comments in addition to the three minutes they are given to provide someone else’s comments.

There will be no “Q & A” sessions permitted of DNREC staff, applicants, or any other persons in attendance during DNREC public hearings.  Unlike informal meetings such as public meetings or public workshops (which are not part of the formal hearing record), DNREC public hearings are formal platforms for the public to attend and offer comment specifically related to the subject matter of that hearing, ultimately for the DNREC Secretary’s consideration prior to he or she making a final decision on such matters.  While DNREC staff are present at its public hearings to facilitate those formal proceedings, they are not present to participate in the same.

It is important to remember that no decision has been made by the Department in any matter prior to the public hearing. Nor will any decision be made at the conclusion of the public hearing.  As noted above, the purpose of the hearing is to provide a formal platform for the public to come and offer comment specifically related to the subject matter of the hearing, and for such comment to be incorporated into the formal hearing record generated for each hearing matter. 

There will be no answers provided at the public hearing.  Public comments and questions that are incorporated into the hearing record in each matter will be addressed by the Department in the Hearing Officer’s Report. 

The completed Hearing Officer’s Report will be provided to the Secretary for consideration in making his or her final determination.