Informal Review Guidance (18 AAC 15.185)
The information presented here is of a general nature and is intended to help you become familiar with and navigate DEC's administrative appeals processes. This document does not contain the specific policies and procedures which govern appeals. The governing regulations are in Chapter 15, Administrative Procedures, of Title 18 of the Alaska Administrative Code (18 AAC 15).
An informal review is a review by a DEC division director (or their designee) of a decision made by staff. It is intended to be a relatively quick, simple and informal way to appeal a staff decision. In general, the same decisions that can be appealed under the more formal adjudicatory hearing process can also be appealed through the informal review process. The primary differences are that the informal review process does not involve the quasi-judicial aspects of formal adjudication such as notice and service, preparation of and response to briefs, formal hearings, and administrative law judges. The informal review is also conducted at the division director level instead of at the commissioner level.
The following is intended to introduce and guide you through the informal review process. If you decide to request an informal review, please use the DEC Informal Review Request Form (PDF).
Decisions subject to the informal review process
Persons directly and adversely affected by DEC decisions may use the informal review process to appeal most DEC staff decisions provided the decisions are final and not preliminary or proposed. An informal review can be requested of any decision that could be appealed under the more formal adjudicatory hearing process, but other decisions can be appealed through the informal review process as well. Examples of the types of decisions for which informal review can be requested include:
- Permit decisions, such as decisions to issue, deny or modify waste management, waste disposal, wastewater discharge, air emission or pesticide permits; and decisions to certify or deny certification of federal permits.
- Variance decisions such as decisions to issue short-term variances to water quality standards or to establish site-specific water quality standards.
- Plan review decisions such as decisions to approve or deny plans for public drinking water or sewage systems.
- Decisions to assess penalties. (A separate process is available to appeal routine fees charged by DEC.)
- Decisions about agency orders where DEC compels someone to do something or to provide information.
- Decisions about administrative enforcement actions such as decisions to issue a Notice of Violation.
As a general rule, if you have been directly and adversely affected by a DEC decision, you can request informal review of that decision. If in doubt as to whether a decision can be appealed through the informal review process, you can ask DEC staff or the director, or you may just want to submit a request for informal review and let the agency respond.
Who can request an informal review?
The regulations define who is "authorized" to request an informal review. You are "authorized" to request an informal review if you are "directly and adversely" affected by the decision. Your request must explain how you are "directly and adversely" affected.
If the decision concerns a DEC permit, approval or other authorization issued to you or your business, chances are you are authorized to request a review. Alternatively, if the decision involves something that you own or use, such as a water body or a parcel of land or the air in your neighborhood, you may be "authorized" to request a review. Organizations that represent the interests of resource users may also be "authorized" to request a review.
You are not required to be represented by an attorney. The informal nature of the process allows you to represent yourself if you choose not to have an attorney represent you. Of course, you are welcome to have an attorney represent you if that is your preference.
Relationship of the informal review process to the adjudicatory hearing process
Requesting an informal review does not reduce your ability to request a formal adjudicatory hearing. A request for informal review extends the deadline for requesting a formal adjudicatory hearing. You can request an informal review first and later request an adjudicatory hearing if you are not satisfied with the outcome of the informal review.
When and where to request an informal review
A request for an informal review must be made within 20 days after receiving the decision. Requests must be in writing, but can be made by mail, email or fax. For the sake of ease and expediency, if you have access to email you may want to consider making your request that way, but any of the three ways will work.
Requests are made to the director of the DEC division that issued the decision.
- View the names and areas of responsibility of the DEC divisions
- View director names, mailing addresses, email addresses, and fax numbers
What to include in a request for informal review
As mentioned, a request for informal review can simply be a letter, mailed or faxed, or an email to the DEC division director that issued the decision you wish to appeal. What to include in the letter or email is important and is specified in regulation (18 AAC 15.185(a)). Be sure to:
- Include your name, mailing address and telephone number
- Identify the specific DEC decision you would like reviewed
- State in "clear and concise" terms the reason you are requesting the review. This statement must include:
- The nature and scope of your interests . (For example, does the decision concern a permit issued to you or a penalty assessed against you? Do you use a water body that will be affected by a DEC decision to issue a permit? Do you live in an area where air quality could be affected by a DEC permitting decision?)
- How and to what extent your interests are affected by the decision . (Your statement needs to describe how your interests are "directly and adversely" affected by the decision. If you are requesting review of a permit issued to you, little needs to be said because how your interests are affected may be apparent. On the other hand, if you are requesting review of a DEC decision to issue a permit to someone else for an activity that affects a water body you use, you should describe for what purposes and how often you use the water body, and how DEC's decision to issue the permit will affect your use.)
- The specific aspects of the decision you disagree with and any alternatives you see that you would like the director to consider. (For example, if the contested DEC decision is to issue a permit, you should identify the specific permit conditions that you would like reviewed. If the decision is one of assessing a penalty against you, your specific concern may be the size of the penalty. In all cases you are encouraged to suggest changes the director could make to address your specific concerns.)
- Copies of any documents or data that support your case or that you think would help the director in their review.
The informal review process and timeframes
Within 7 working days of receiving your request, the director (or designee) will decide whether to grant or deny the request for review. If the director decides to deny your request, they will inform you of that along with the reason(s) for denying it. A denial will be in writing and is typically in the form of a letter to you. If your request indicates that you have email or fax capability, an advance copy of the letter may be provided to you that way with the official letter following in the mail. If your request for review is denied, you can consider whether to pursue your appeal through the adjudicatory hearing process.
The director may ask you for additional information. It is in your best interest to provide copies of all documents or data you believe would assist the director with your request for review rather than assume the director will contact you later for this information. However, if you do receive a request for additional information, you should respond as quickly, accurately and thoroughly as possible. The director will make a final decision on your request within 15 working days of the date they received your request or within 15 working days of receiving any additional information requested of you, whichever is later. The director's decision will be in writing, typically in the form of a letter. If your request indicates that you have email or fax capability, an advance copy of the letter may be provided to you that way with the official letter following in the mail. Upon receiving the director's decision, you may consider whether to pursue your appeal through the adjudicatory hearing process.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I be concerned about DEC staff reacting negatively to my appealing their decision?
- No. Appeals of staff decisions are routine and staff understand that their decisions are subject to review, modification or reversal by DEC managers and appeal processes.
- Do informal reviews really ever result in a director changing a decision made by their staff?
- Yes. There are many instances when decisions or aspects of decisions have been changed based on an informal review.
- Am I required to have an attorney?
- No. The informal nature of the process is intended to allow a person to represent themselves if they choose not to have an attorney represent them. Of course, you are welcome to have an attorney represent you if you would like.
- Will there be a hearing?
- No. There will not be an offical hearing for purposes of providing information or arguing the case. The process relies on information provided by you and DEC staff.
- Will I have to travel?
- No. The entire process can be accomplished by mail, email, fax or over the phone.
- Where can I get additional information?
- You can call or email the director of the division that issued the decision. Alternatively, you can contact Gary Mendivil, Hearing Liaison, with the DEC commissioner's office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Mr. Mendivil at 907-465-5061.