At these sessions, written comments were accepted but there was no forum for people to verbalize their thoughts, except privately to a stenographer. This process denied participants the opportunity to stand and speak their minds. While that's truly insidious, the most evil and clearly calculated result of the sessions' format is that people were robbed of the privilege of hearing the comments of others.
Written comments do have their place. In fact, they could trigger the preparation of an environmental impact statement, which would at least significantly delay the test. (Letters will be accepted until Feb. 7 at NNSA/NSO, Divine Strake, PO Box 98518, Las Vegas, NV, 89193-8518 or email@example.com.)
But movements for social change can only develop when we hear each other. They do not come from any one person's thoughts, written on a piece of paper and headed for a silent pile on a bureaucrat's desk.
That's what Gov. Jon Huntsman knew when he held true public hearings on Divine Strake. He knew earlier federally sponsored sessions lacked that special fraternity, cohesion, alchemy and synergy that can come from a group of concerned people when they are allowed to interact.
And when that magic happens, committed people can bring about change. They can move mountains. They can even keep governments from moving mountains.
That's why at the Salt Lake hearing last Wednesday, nearly everyone who rose to speak took a moment of their allotted two minutes to thank the governor. Many also thanked Dianne Nielson, executive director of Utah's Department of Environmental Quality, who sat and listened intently and politely to each and every comment.
A transcript of all those comments will soon be available on the department's Web site and will be forwarded to the federal folks who ran the previous silent sessions.
I want to step aside early this time to make room for some citizen remarks, condensed by me, from the governor's Salt Lake City hearing.
* BARB GUY is a regular contributor to these pages.