Public Hearings

Public Hearings in the United States

Public Hearings in Environmental Law

Some agency proposals affect not only the person directly involved, but also the community or other members of the public. For that reason, proposals are published and contain a means of asking for a hearing. Members of the public may request hearings, attend them, and present evidence concerning the issue.

An example: if a industry wants a permit to discharge pollutants into a river, the public may want the opportunity to support the industry or argue against the permit. The EPA will accept comments on proposed permits, but it may also determine that a public hearing is warranted. If a hearing is held, a hearing officer will go to the community and hold an open forum. Later, recommendations will be made concerning the action.


The EPA, as well as other agencies, issues rules. Some merely interpret or clarify an agency position. Other rules become the law; they are called legislative rules. Legislative rules must go through a notice and comment period.

The primary reason rulemaking is restrained through the notice and comment requirement is that administrative agencies are not elected officials so are not directly accountable to the public. Public notice and opportunity to comment on rules keeps the agency from acting in a vacuum and provides a record that a court can review later to determine whether the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

Informal hearings on proposed rules are common. The proposal is published along with the basis and purpose of the rule. Then the public is informed about how to submit comments. A public hearing may or may not follow. If the statute requires a formal hearing, one must be held, and this type of hearing then becomes a part of the record. In either situation, the agency must consider and respond to comments submitted at the end of the process.
Based on “Environment and the Law. A Dictionary”.

Public Hearings: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Public Hearings. This part provides references, in relation to Public Hearings, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Public Hearings by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Public Hearings and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Public Hearings or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Public Hearings and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Public Hearings. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Public Hearings should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Public Hearings when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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