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.

Comments on public hearing matters may be submitted in written form or verbally at the time of the hearing.

All comments bear equal weight regardless of how they are submitted.

Public hearings provide a formal platform for the public to hear the details of specific matters. They may submit comments before or after the hearing 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.).

It is important to remember that no decision has been made by the Department in any matter prior to the public hearing. No decision be made at the conclusion of the public hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to provide a formal platform for the public to hear the details of specific matters and to submit comments to be incorporated into a formal hearing record.

No answers will be provided during 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 Hearing Officer’s Report will be provided to the Secretary for consideration in making a final decision.

Written Comments

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:

Please note that there are file size limits for comments submitted via our comment form (8MB) and for comments submitted directly by email (25MB). There is further a limit of 125 file attachments per email.

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

Written comments are immediately incorporated into the hearing record upon receipt and are posted for public view on the web page dedicated to that particular hearing matter. Please note that comments cannot be withdrawn or retracted after submittal.

Verbal Comments

Those wishing to offer verbal comments during the public hearing must pre-register no later than noon on the day of the hearing to be added to the list of commenters who will be recognized to speak during the comment portion of the hearing.

Each commenter is asked to formally identify themselves for the record, and to make their comments as concisely as possible.

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

In order treat everyone equally and impartially at all DNREC public hearings, each person will be allotted three minutes of time to comment.

The comment time limit will be strictly enforced, regardless of the subject matter of the hearing, to ensure that everyone is treated equally, and that all who want to comment have an opportunity to do so. To help speakers time their comments, a visual timer will be displayed.

There is no video feed of commenters while they speak, comments will be audio only.

Commenters will be recognized by the hearing officer in a commenting order based on their registration for the hearing. When called on, the commenter will be taken off mute for three minutes. At the end of that time period, the system will automatically place them back on mute for the remainder of the hearing.

If a commenter is unable to finish their comments in three minutes, they are encouraged to submit their full comments in writing.

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

A registered commenter may read into the hearing record the comments of another person, provided that they fully identify that person. The three-minute time limit applies to the person speaking on another’s behalf. 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 “Question and Answer” sessions involving DNREC staff, applicants, or any others during DNREC public hearings. Unlike informal meetings or public workshops (which are not part of the formal hearing record), DNREC public hearings are formal platforms for the public to offer comment specifically related to the subject matter of that hearing, ultimately for the DNREC Secretary’s consideration prior to making a final decision.