- What is it?
A RAB is a local stakeholder group that meets regularly to discuss the investigation and cleanup activities on installations or other property where a Department of Defense (DoD) environmental restoration is ongoing. Army RABs serve as a forum for the discussion and exchange of restoration program information between the Army, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state, local and tribal representatives, other regulatory agencies, and members of the affected community.
Army RABs are authorized, established and led by the Garrison Commander or his/her designee and co-led by a community chairperson. The RAB reflects the diverse makeup of the community and provides stakeholders opportunities to have input into the restoration process, monitor its progress, make community views and concerns known to the decision makers, and establish and promote dialogue between installation decision makers and those affected by their decisions. RABs are funded by the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) and therefore must remain focused on environmental restoration on a particular installation or collection of restoration sites. RAB meetings are open to the public.
Prior to the publication of the RAB Rule in 2006, Technical Review Committees (TRCs) were established to review and comment on the Army’s actions with respect to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances at installations. Most TRCs were converted to RABs. The remainder serve as working sessions for exchanging information and organizational viewpoints and include at least one representative from the Army, EPA, state and local authorities, and may include representatives from surrounding communities.
- What has the Army done?
The Army supports RABs in those communities where there is sufficient and sustained interest in the environmental restoration program and for those environmental restoration programs where closure of the installation involves the transfer of property to the community. RABs are formed when at least 50 local citizens petition for creation of a RAB, or where federal, state, tribal or local government representatives have requested the formation of a RAB or where, based on sufficient and sustained community interest, the Garrison Commander believes there is a need for a RAB.
The Army funds those RABs that remain active and productive, and requires installations that have an active restoration program but don’t yet have a RAB to solicit for interest in a RAB every two years until the program achieves remedy in place or response complete status.
The Army provides Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP) grants to allow local community members of RABs established at Army installations in the United States and its territories to receive independent technical assistance in understanding the technical documents and improving the public’s understanding of overall conditions and activities related to the restoration program. This program is designed to allow citizen RAB members to participate more fully in discussions regarding the restoration and to provide informed comments regarding the documents and proposed actions they are asked to review. TAPP providers must have demonstrated knowledge of hazardous or toxic waste issues and laws, academic training in a relevant discipline, and the ability to review, understand and put technical information into terms understandable to laypersons. TAPP maximum allowable technical assistance funding per RAB is $100,000 total or, during any one year, the lesser of $25,000 or one percent of the installation’s total projected environmental restoration cost-to-complete, providing funds are available.
U.S. Army Environmental Command (USAEC) is the program manager for the Army’s DERP active and non-Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) excess installations. USAEC reviews installation RAB information for consistency with DoD policy and reviews proposed RAB funding requirements for reimbursement eligibility and consistency with approved obligation plans. USAEC also assists installations with information on RAB solicitation, the roles of the installation and RAB citizen members and information regarding TAPP funding eligibility for projects.
- What does the Army have planned?
The Army will continue to support existing RABs at those installations where there is sustained community interest or at sites where lands are being transferred to the community. The Army also will support TAPP grants to help RAB members understand the technical documents on which they are asked to provide comments and input. Those installations without RABs will solicit every two years to determine public interest in forming one. The Army will continue to provide other opportunities for public participation and input into the decision-making process at its environmental restoration sites in accordance with the Community Involvement Plans and responses to community interviews on how members of the public wish to be informed about and involved in the restoration process.
- Why is this important?
As with all public participation, RABs contribute to better decisions. They help provide more complete information in the form of public input that gives decision makers additional facts, values, and perspectives. This allows them to consider and incorporate the best information and expertise from all stakeholders. A progressive and successful public involvement program such as a RAB should prevent delays and assist, rather than deter, the project. A RAB that provides a balanced representation of the entire affected community can establish the basis for building relationships and trust.
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