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Memorandum From the President on Public Participation in Federal Agency Proceedings

May 16, 1979

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

Executive Order 12044 of March 23, 1978, formalized the Administration's commitment to public participation in Federal agency proceedings. Widespread participation can improve the quality of agency decisions by assuring that they are made on the basis of more complete and balanced records.

Experience has shown, however, that citizen groups often find the cost of meaningful participation in agency proceedings to be prohibitive. Many citizen groups are unable to pay the costs of experts and attorneys' fees, clerical costs, and the costs of travel to agency proceedings. As a result, the views and interests of consumers, workers, small businesses, and others often go unrepresented, or underrepresented, in proceedings that may have substantial impacts on their health, safety, or economic well-being.

In recognition of the cost problems faced by many citizen groups, several agencies have established programs to provide financial assistance to persons (1) whose participation in a proceeding could reasonably be expected to contribute to a fair disposition of the issues and (2) who would be unable to participate effectively in the proceeding in the absence of such assistance. These programs have improved agency decisionmaking, and I believe they should be utilized in other agencies.

Accordingly, I direct each Executive Department and Agency to take the following steps:

1. Each department and agency that has not already established a public participation funding program should determine whether it has statutory authority to do so. I note in this regard that the Department of Justice has advised Federal agencies that they may determine for themselves whether they have explicit or implicit authority to fund such programs.

In the event that an agency concludes that it does not have this authority, it should immediately apprise my Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs of that conclusion and of the grounds upon which it is based.

2. Each department and agency that finds it has authority to establish a public participation funding program should assess the extent of its need for such a program. A preliminary evaluation, as well as a tentative timetable for the development of program regulations, should be forwarded to my Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs within 60 days of the issuance of this memorandum. After appropriate consultation with other White House and Executive Office of the President officials, my Special Assistant will report to me on these evaluations.

I have supported, and will continue to support, legislation to create, standardize, and adequately finance public participation funding programs government-wide. Independent of these legislative efforts, there is a current need for public participation funding and I strongly encourage each department and agency with the requisite authority to institute a public participation funding program. Until new legislation is enacted, however, additional programs of this sort will have to rely upon agency funds already allocated. My Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs and her staff will be available to provide technical assistance and advice regarding the structure and standards of such programs.


Jimmy Carter, Memorandum From the President on Public Participation in Federal Agency Proceedings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249352

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