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.

Permitting and Regulations

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. These permits are issued under a set of environmental regulations.

Developing and Updating Regulations

DNREC follows a regulatory development process designed to ensure that, to the extent possible, everyone who is interested in a proposed action regarding a regulation is properly notified about it, that the department follows a predictable and open process in developing, adopting, amending, and/or repealing such regulations, and that all these processes conform to legal and programmatic requirements. 

Learn more about how DNREC writes and updates the state’s environmental regulations. Also available en Español and an Kreyòl Ayisyen.

The Environmental Permitting Process

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.

A flow-chart outlining the steps in the environmental 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.

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. Notices from the past 12 months are archived by division. There are also archives of those notices that are published en Español and an Kreyòl Ayisyen.

Subscribe for DNREC public notices by email. Track DNREC public using the public notice RSS feed.

Community Information Sessions

If you want to learn more about a project and have DNREC answer questions about the information contained in the permit application, or have an applicant answer questions about the project, you may request a Community Information Session.

Aside from contacting the office listed on the public notice, a Community Information Session is the best way to gain more information prior to submitting written or verbal public comments as part of the official record for the permit application.

Public Meetings

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

Subscribe to the state Public Meeting Calendar to track public meetings by state agency.

Public Hearings

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

A public hearing is a legal proceeding, conducted in a prescribed format that does not allow for discussion. Members of the community may submit official comments for consideration by the Secretary as part of making a final decision.

Written responses to public comments are included in the Technical Response Memo that is posted, as part of a Hearing Officer’s Report, on the DNREC web pages dedicated to secretary’s orders and to public hearings.

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.


Persons who are “substantially affected by any action of the Secretary” may appeal to the Delaware Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). The full appeal process is outlined in Section 2 of the Environmental Appeals Board Regulations (7 DE Admin. Code 105).

Decisions of the Environmental Appeals Board may be appealed to Delaware Superior Court.

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 conducts direct outreach to communities, including attending community meetings to discuss and answer questions about upcoming projects and including permit conditions to address community concerns.

Evaluating Outreach and Communication

In 2021, the department awarded Delaware State University a grant to research all points of DNREC’s public engagement — including the needs and limitations of current programs and outreach to under-served communities — and to identify and suggest ways to bridge gaps in department’s public engagement.

The result of that two-year effort is a report titled Evaluation of DNREC Communications and Interaction with the Public with Special Consideration to Underserved Communities (March 2023).

While highlighting areas where there is still work to be done, the recommendations are consistent with findings from past outreach and closely align with changes to DNREC’s outreach initiatives.

The people of DNREC are proud of the progress they have made, but they know that connecting with Delawareans, especially those in underserved or underrepresented communities, is a daily task that must remain at the forefront of their decision-making processes. DNREC is committed to continuous improvement in its outreach efforts.

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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