1980 Societal Assessment of SPS

• Passage of federal, state and local laws and regulations to control and reverse environmental degradation, such as The Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act • Requirements of direct public involvement in project review and approval process in environmental legislation • Passage of public disclosure legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act • Trends in the judicial/regulatory arena which provide adversely affected citizens a legal means to protect their interests • General decline in trust and goodwill towards government • Rise and prominence of public interest organizations There is also an element of risk stemming from the unprecedented nature of early public involvement in the SPS CDEP. It is not known to what extent public involvement at this early stage may complicate or facilitate program development in the future. It is possible that early public involvement may result in a premature polarization of issues. Public confusion and controversy may result from the dissemination of incomplete information derived from early technological, environmental, and societal impact assessments. Furthermore, public involvement programs in the next stage could be expensive and, without any precedent, it is difficult to determine a proper balance between costs and benefits. In terms of the benefits, public participation may dispel the notion of a powerless public in the hands of elitist decision makers, instead of creating perceptions of a cooperative enterprise. Public participation may also encourage the development of leadership, clarify issues, and substitute issue politics for personality politics. Other benefits include more effective planning and prioritization of objectives, with checks and balances to ensure appropriate and acceptable action. The paradox of public participation is that as citizen participation increases in terms of both scope and intensity, there is an equal likelihood of an increase in associated risks or benefits. Participation and outreach programs are subject to greater risks and greater potential benefits than other programs which share in a reduced level of public involvement. Unfortunately,