Welcome Seattle NTI class!

15 06 2010

NEPA & Social Media

Social media is inherently participatory and holds great potential for public participation. But it is also relatively uncharted territory which makes some public agencies nervous about using it. What are the risks? What are the legal implications? How should social media comments be addressed in formal public processes and comment periods?

One area that I am watching with interest is how social media is applied to environmental studies. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires some form of public participation at specific project stages, but it does not dictate how public outreach is to be conducted. That allows individual agencies and project teams to determine the outreach methods most appropriate to the project context.

I have started collecting examples of NEPA projects using social media. A couple of posts from the blog at cubitplanning.com provide tips on archiving tweets for an administrative record and examples of NEPA projects using Facebook. There will be much to learn from these early examples.

The key in the growing social media environment is to determine how you will use these resources and clearly spell out the parameters of use for the project team and for your stakeholders. Just as you would clearly explain the role, responsibilities and use of input from a stakeholder committee, the same should be done for social media sites established for a NEPA study.

If you have been using social media tools for a NEPA project, I’d love to hear about it. Please submit a comment that describes your experience!