APA is trying to change its Public Comment Policy to make it more difficult for the public to submit comments and provide less public input.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is seeking to change its policies for how it accepts public comments, which will limit opportunities for public comments, and to streamline the process for changing its policies.
Public comments are needed by April 21st!
APA Public Comment Policy
The APA is taking public comments until April 21st on proposed changes to how it adopts or changes its policies and on how the public is allowed to comment at monthly meetings. In both cases, the APA is trying to limit public access and participation. In doing so, the APA is taking steps to become less open and less transparent.
The proposed revisions to the APA Public Comment Policy (click here to read the proposed changes) eliminates the public comment period at the beginning of the APA’s monthly meetings and significantly shortens the time for the public to submit written comments on issues on the meeting agenda. These changes are proposed for “Agency 2-Public Comment Policy.”
Verbal Public Comment Period Should Not be Moved: Traditionally, the APA has held a public comment period at the beginning of its monthly meeting, an opportunity where the public can address the APA Board and staff in public. Each speaker is limited to three minutes. The APA is now proposing to move the public comment period to the end of its meeting and to impose a cap of 20 minutes for public comments. There are two big problems with this proposal.
First, the Adirondack Park is a big place. Many communities in the Adirondack Park are a 2-hour drive to the APA headquarters in Ray Brook, outside of Lake Placid. The public is better served with a definite speaking opportunity at the beginning of the APA’s monthly meeting, at a time that is fairly close to the announced starting time. This allows the public to plan their trip to Ray Brook. APA meetings vary greatly in their duration, and if public comments are moved to the end, people could miss their opportunity to speak if the APA meeting ends early, or have to wait around for hours, if the meeting runs long. It shows basic respect for the public to hold the speaking opportunity at a set time at the beginning of each meeting.
Written Public Comment Period Should Not be Changed without Adequate Time for Review: The APA also proposes to move up the deadline for when written comments to the Board must be submitted before its monthly meeting from noon on the day before the meeting to “close of business” three days before the APA meeting. Currently, the APA monthly meeting usually starts on a Thursday and all public comments are due by Wednesday at noon. The APA wants to change this so that all comments must be submitted by Monday at 5PM for a Thursday meeting.
The problem with this proposal is that the APA often does not post its meeting materials until Friday afternoon, less than 1 week before the APA’s monthly meeting. A press release and agenda are sent our earlier, but the public needs the meeting materials, which includes staff reports, draft permits, and draft resolutions, among many other things, in order to draft comments. If the APA is successful with this change, it would force the public to draft comments over a weekend, a burden that will severely limit public participation.
If the APA is going to change the deadline for public comments to its monthly meeting, then the APA should release its meeting materials earlier to the public. The additional time will give the public a fair opportunity to review and comment on the materials provided for an APA monthly meeting. Otherwise, according to current APA practice of posting materials online late on Friday afternoon, the public would be required to review all of the materials, conduct extensive legal and policy research, and prepare written comments over the weekend and on one business day. That is an unfair burden to place on the public, especially when it can be remedied by simply having the materials posted online by the APA earlier.
Public Comments Should be Posted: One problem that the APA fails to address is that public comments submitted to the APA before a monthly meeting often fail to reach the APA Board. The APA’s delivery system for public comments is ad hoc and haphazard. It’s clear from discussions at the APA meetings, that many Board members have not read important public comments. Any changes to the APA’s Public Comments Policy should include a section that details the process for how comments are delivered to the Board and to document that they were read in advance of the meeting.
Other Changes: Protect the Adirondacks supports the APA’s proposal to accept written comments only during the open public comment period for “matters for which a noticed public comment period is held”. We also support the proposal to accept comments only as part of the official record of the proceeding for matters that are the subject of an adjudicatory hearing. The draft APA Public Comment Policy should be revised to reflect how and when written comments will be disseminated to the Board Members for their consideration in those matters.
APA is Amending its APA Policy & Guidance System to Make it Easier to Change APA Policies with Less Public Scrutiny
The APA also is seeking public comments on its proposed revisions of two other APA policies: “Agency 1-Policy and Guidance System.” The revisions to the Policy and Guidance System include reducing the number of public meetings at which the APA must consider proposed policies before a proposed policy can be adopted.
The proposed revisions to the APA Policy & Guidance System (latest revisions can be found here) seek to reduce the opportunities for public review of, and input on, Agency policy adoption. The proposed revisions remove the 3-step process for adopting new or revised policies and replace that process with a vague and discretionary process for public review and comment. Instead of requiring a minimum of three meetings, the APA would be allowed to adopt new or revised policies at a single meeting.
This does not provide adequate opportunity for public review and is not in keeping with good public agency openness and transparency practices.
We Need You to Submit Your Public Comment Today
Public comments are needed by April 21st!
Please write your own comment letter to the APA by April 21st or you can use the form below to send an automatic comment.
Here’s where to submit your own letter:
Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
By email: AgencyMeeting.PublicComment@apa.ny.gov
Submit an Automatic Email Public Comment Today!
This public comment period has closed.
Talking Points for Public Comments to the APA on the Proposed Revisions to the APA Policy & Guidance System and the Agency Public Comment Policy
- The draft APA Public Comment Policy should only be revised for a new comment deadline by Monday at 5PM before the APA’s monthly meeting if it includes a requirement that the APA releases its agenda two Mondays before its monthly meeting and posts all meeting materials to the APA website two Wednesdays prior to the scheduled Board meeting.
- The draft APA Public Comment Policy should include a section that details the process for how comments are delivered to the Board and to document that they were read in advance of the meeting.
- The draft APA Public Comment Policy should not be changed to remove the public comment period at the beginning of the APA meeting. This gives the public, who often travel a great distance, with certainty for making a comment.
- The draft APA Policy & Guidance System should be amended to require that the Board consider proposed “non-ministerial” changes at two public meetings before any action is taken to adopt a new policy.
- The draft APA Policy & Guidance System should state that public notice of proposed new or revised non-ministerial policy changes must be published by press release, on the Agency website, and in the Environmental Notice Bulletin at least two weeks prior to the APA meeting in which the policy will be considered by the Board.
- The draft APA Policy & Guidance System should be modified to require the APA to post all proposed new or revised “ministerial” policy changes to the APA website at least eight days prior to the scheduled Board meeting.