(1) Whenever a public hearing is held on an EIS
or an EA, the agency shall issue a news release or legal notice to newspapers
of general circulation
area to be affected by the proposed action prior to the hearing. The news
release or legal notice must advise the public of the nature of testimony the
agency wishes to receive at the hearing. The hearing must be held after the draft
EIS has been circulated and prior to preparation of the final EIS. A hearing
involving an action for which an EA was prepared must be held after the EA has
been circulated and prior to any final agency determinations concerning the
proposed action. In cases involving an applicant, the agency shall allow an
applicant a reasonable time to respond in writing to comments made at a public
hearing, notwithstanding the time limits contained in ARM 8.2.313, the
applicant may waive his right to respond to comments made at a hearing.
(2) In addition to the procedure in (1) above, the agency shall take such
other steps as are reasonable and appropriate to promote the awareness by
interested parties of a scheduled hearing.
(3) The agency shall hold a public hearing whenever requested within 20 days
of issuance of the draft EIS by either:
(a) 10% or 25, whichever is less, of the persons who will be directly
affected by the proposed action;
(b) by another agency which has jurisdiction over the action;
(c) an association having not less than 25 members who will be directly
affected by the proposed action; or
(d) the applicant, if any.
(4) In determining whether a sufficient number
of persons have requested a hearing as required by subsection (3) , the agency
shall resolve instances of doubt in favor of holding a public hearing.
(5) No person may give testimony at the hearing as a representative of a
participating agency. Such a representative may, however, at the discretion of
the hearing officer, give a statement regarding his or her agency's authority
or procedures and answer questions from the public.
(6) Public meetings may be held in lieu of
formal hearings as a means of soliciting public comment on EAs (see ARM
8.2.307(2) ) and on an EIS where no hearing is requested under (3) above.
However, the agency shall provide adequate advance notice of the meeting; and,
other than the degree of formality surrounding the proceedings, the objectives
of such a meeting are essentially the same as those for a hearing.