Making Your Public Comments Count

View Rules, Regulations and Documents Currently Open for Public Comment

People can get frustrated when they take the time to submit written or verbal public comments on a regulatory proposal, and at the end of the process, the final rule or regulation doesn’t seem to reflect their comments. They may walk away with the feeling their comments didn't really matter.

This is not true. Public participation is essential to developing more effective rules, regulations and permits. The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (NDDEQ) works hard to draft environmental protection rules and permits based on science and the law. They reach out to experts, but they also count on the public and other groups (both technical and non-technical) to identify flaws and to offer solutions to reach the optimal outcome, i.e., protective, reasonable regulations without unintended consequences.

The following information is provided to assist the general public and other stakeholders in making effective public comments.

Keys to Effective Public Comments

Comments that provide new information the agency has not yet considered or that offer possible solutions are helpful.

  • Point out unintended effects.
  • For instance, in 2013 NDDEQ staff recommended a revision of the state's septic pumper rule. These recommended changes to the rule were based on technical comments received during the public comment period. Because of the comments, the final rule allowed more flexibility for the business owner, avoiding some unintended consequences while maintaining environmental compliance.

  • If possible, provide technical information.
  • Certain individuals or groups can provide industry-specific analytical information that may be beyond NDDEQ’s expertise, thereby helping to refine the rule or permit under consideration. For instance, recent advancements in technology and materials may make some rules obsolete.

  • Point to a solution, rather than just the problem.
  • Although helpful to explain why a rule won't work, it is more helpful to suggest constructive alternatives and substitute language to address the concern or problem.

Common Comment Mistakes

Comments that offer opinions or raise questions unrelated to the proposed rule or permit are not so helpful.

  • A comment is not a vote.
  • The public comment process is not a vote. One well-supported comment is often more informative than a hundred emails or form letters raising the same point. In cases where this occurs, the NDDEQ will not respond to each comment individually but will note it received the same comment multiple times.

  • Comments that are not specific to the rulemaking or permit proposal are not relevant.
  • Read and understand the propoed rule or permit that you are commenting on. For example, if the proposed regulation concerns updating the water quality standards and a comment is submited regarding air quality, staff will not respond to it due to its lack of relevancy.

  • Some comments address issues that are beyond the authority of the NDDEQ.
  • As a member of the public or representative of another group, you may have a great suggestion for improving North Dakota's air, land or water quality. While the NDDEQ welcomes these ideas, implementing them may require federal, legislative or governor approval. Understanding the regulatory authority and process can help support the consideration of your ideas.

  • Questions on a proposed rule are not considered comments.
  • Questions are welcomed! However, they are not considered comments. If you have one, email or call the contact person identified in the public notice. The NDDEQ includes contact information for its rule and permit experts on the public comment page. Receiving clarification on a question may help you formulate a better comment.

We are committed to using the public notice and comment process to improve department decisions. If you have additional questions about the public notice and comment process for a specific proposal, please contact us at 701-328-5150, or visit our website at

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