|From:||CPEO Moderator <email@example.com>|
|Date:||1 Jul 2003 14:14:22 -0000|
|Subject:||[CPEO-MEF] How a RAB Works- The Campaign to Clean the Moffett Wetlands|
The following report can be viewed online as a Word document at: http://www.cpeo.org/pubs/pub.html __________________________________________________ How a RAB Works: The Campaign to Clean the Moffett Wetlands by Lenny Siegel Center for Public Environmental Oversight June, 2003 The growth of Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs), Site-Specific Advisory Boards (SSABs), and Community Advisory Groups is a bold experiment, not just in “public participation,” but in direct democracy. These bodies give the people most affected by both contamination and cleanup activities an opportunity to understand and shape investigation, remediation, and increasingly, long-term stewardship. The Defense Departments sponsors 299 RABs throughout the United States. The Energy Department established 12 SSABs. And U.S. EPA and state regulatory agencies sponsor a growing, but uncounted number of advisory groups of various names and origin. Communities and agencies have come together to form such boards to oversee a range of environmental activities, but by far, most are organized to monitor and influence cleanup decisions at hazardous waste sites. Compared to the public meetings and the comment-and-response process built into most cleanup programs—known unsympathetically as “decide-announce-defend”—advisory groups have been an enormous success. The public has continuing access to site information and cleanup proposals, and the responsible parties (polluters) and regulatory agencies benefit from their constructive advice. Still, many—perhaps a majority of—advisory group members are frustrated. Month after month they attend meetings, hear briefings, and peruse lengthy documents. They offer suggestions and criticisms, but often the decision-makers ignore their input. As I explain to community members of such boards, “advisory” is their middle name. They are volunteers, with no legal authority. Legal authority belongs to appointees and staff in government agencies—though often those agencies argue over who has ultimate decision-making authority. Undoubtedly, agencies could improve the way they organize, support, and listen to their advisory groups. But I have found, in consulting activists in scores of communities over the past dozen years, that board members can overcome their subordinate roles and get the agencies to do what they want, if they better understand how advisory boards work. That is, if community members view participation in advisory boards as merely one step in community empowerment, if they see their advice as part of broader organizing campaigns, they can not only get officials to listen. If they play their cards right, the can force the agencies to change decisions that the community doesn’t like. This has happened more than once at Moffett Field, in my community of Mountain View, California. The Technical Review Committee established by the Navy in 1990 served as the model for the SSABs recommended by the Federal Facilities Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee in 1993, and the RAB established in 1994-5 continues to serve as an example of constructive and effective community involvement. Most recently, the neighbors of Moffett Field forced the Navy and its regulators to abandon incomplete cleanup plans which would have prevented the tidal restoration of the Moffett wetlands. This report explains how our community undertook a multi-year campaign to that end, and it draws a series of lessons from our experience. Many of those lessons should prove useful elsewhere. The complete report can be viewed at: http://www.cpeo.org/pubs/How%20a%20RAB%20Works.doc ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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