The Public Notice Resource Center filed comments urging the Environmental Protection Agency not to deprive the public of newspaper notices relating to the approval of permits under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA is considering notifying the public about Clean Air Act permits only on a government website.

The Public Notice Resource Center was joined in the comments by 43 other organizations representing newspapers and journalists, including the Hoosier State Press Association.

On Dec. 29, the EPA announced its intention to reduce the public notice it currently provides in connection with most Clean Air Act actions by eliminating the requirement that the notices run in local newspapers near the potential sources of pollution the EPA is planning to approve.

“If the EPA moves forward with this proposal, it will increase the likelihood that the people who stand to feel the greatest impact from its decisions will be left in the dark until it’s too late,” said Bradley L. Thompson II, president of the Public Notice Resource Center. “The agency’s determination to inform citizens about its plans by posting notices in obscure corners of its website isn’t sufficiently transparent.

“It is especially unfortunate when pollsters tell us people are suspicious of Washington,” Thompson said. “Keeping these notices local in places where readers will find them is a good way to combat public cynicism.”

The Public Notice Resource Center comments note that the EPA based its proposal on the mistaken assumption that citizens affirmatively seek public notices and will regularly visit its website to learn about its plans.

The center also notes that for over 200 years lawmakers have required public notices to be published in newspapers because they offer the best opportunity to reach local, civically engaged readers who are most likely to have a personal interest in the plans and activities described in the notices.

The Public Notice Resource Center is a nonprofit organization that provides research and public education materials on the use of public notice in newspapers.