Data

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Location
United States
Scope of Influence
National
Links
https://www.regulations.gov/
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Facilitators
No
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Online
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
New Media

CASE

Regulations.gov

First Submitted By Brendan Roach

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Location
United States
Scope of Influence
National
Links
https://www.regulations.gov/
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Facilitators
No
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Online
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
New Media

Regulations.gov is designed to facilitate public access to federal regulatory content. It provides a platform for members of the public to access and comment on the regulatory documents of participating agencies, which are normally published on the Federal Register.

Problems and Purpose

Each year, federal agencies author approximately 2,500 to 4,500regulations. While these regulations are typically supposed to be subject to a public comment period, public input is largely nonexistent. [1] Regulations.gov is an online platform where users can comment on pending and proposed federal regulations. The portal is aimed at easing the process of submitting public comment.

Background History and Context

Regulations.gov traces its origin to 2002, when Congress established the eRulemaking Program to effectively leverage new technologies to improve government. [2] In 2003, Regulations.gov launched under the control of the eRulemaking Program Management Office.[3]

Since its initial launch, successive Administrations have sought to expand the scope of Regulations.gov to make it a more effective platform for public comment. In January 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13563 to encourage all agencies to participate on the common platform, while other reforms from the Obama Administration included the development of an application programming interface (API) to enable widespread usage of data from Regulations.gov in third-party applications and sites and the implementation of a search function to allow users to identify proposed rules by category, recency, and upcoming due date.[4]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Regulations.gov is maintained by the eRulemaking Program Management Office (PMO), an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA established PMO to oversee the system development, maintenance, and collaboration of agency partners. Funds earmarked for the eRulemaking Program are used to finance Regulations.gov and its improvements.

The eRulemaking Program is governed by dozens of Federal organizations participating in a tiered governance structure. There is an Executive Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget, comprised of Chief Information Officers (CIO), Regulatory Policy Officers, and/or Deputy Secretaries from 40 Federal Departments and Agency partners. The program’s Advisory Board is made up of senior representatives from partner agencies. Additionally, the various workgroups extend the program’s technical and business process expertise in a range of areas, e.g., usability, budget, and legal issues. A special eRulemaking PMO collects public input to guide changes and augmentations to the Regulations.gov platform.[5]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Regulations.gov currently hosts public commenting for proposed rules from 40 federal agencies. In January 2011, President Obama signed Executive Order 13563 to require agency participation in Regulations.gov “to the extent feasible.”[6] However, the order exempts so-called ‘independent’ agencies, including important bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. [7]

As a general rule, public comment is open to all. Agencies rules regarding what information a commenter must submit vary.

Methods and Tools Used

Regulations.gov is an information intermediary: it offers the technological infrustructure necessary for public bodies to publish documentation and for other individuals and entities to access said documentation. As well, the commenting feature of the website allows for public bodies to post notice and requests for public comment online. In this sense, the website is host to "electronic rulemaking" (also know as eRulemaking), which involves the use of digital technologies by government agencies to support public involvement in rule- and decision-making processes.

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

Regulations.gov is designed to facilitate public access to federal regulatory content. It provides a platform for members of the public to access and comment on the regulatory documents of participating agencies, which are normally published on the Federal Register. On Regulations.gov, members of the public can:

  • Search all publically available regulatory materials (e.g., posted public comments, supporting analyses, Federal Register notices and rules)
  • Submit a comment on a regulation, or on another user's comment
  • Download the regulatory materials of participating agencies as a .csv file
  • Submit an application or adjudication document pertaining to a specific regulation
  • Sign up for email alerts about a specific regulation
  • Quickly access regulations that are popular, newly posted, or closing soon for public comment
  • Subscribe to teh RSS feeds of participating agencies, to track notices newly posted to the Federal Register.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Since its initial release, Regulations.gov has undergone continuous improvements. In 2012, an application programming interface (API) was released, allowing independent developers to use data from Regulations.gov to power their own tools - for instance, the transparency advocacy organization The Sunlight Foundation developed Docket Wrench, a platform allowing users to explore corporate influence in the regulatory process through data available from Regulations.gov. [8]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Regulations.gov has helped ease the public commenting process - recent proposed environmental and land use regulations have each garnered more than 40,000 comments from the public. [9][10] However, it is unclear whether Regulations.gov has improved overall participation in the rulemaking process or improved the quality of public input to proposed regulations. Additionally, not all agencies participate on the platform, limiting the impact of a unified commenting platform until all regulatory agencies can be brought onto the site.

See Also 

Notice and Request for Public Comment

Online Consultations

Voter Information Services

References

​[1] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43056.pdf

[2] https://www.regulations.gov/aboutProgram

[3] https://www.regulations.gov/aboutProgram

[4] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2012/02/21/regulationsgov-remaking-public-participation

[5] https://www.regulations.gov/aboutProgram

[6] http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-01-21/pdf/2011-1385.pdf

[7] “Regulations.gov continues to improve but still has potential for growth,” Sunlight Foundation, April 9 2013. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2013/04/09/regulations-gov-continues-to-improve-but-still-has-potential-for-growth/. Accessed 5/19/2017.

[8] Ibid.

[9] http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/09/sierra-club-generates-more-40000-comments-support-strong-vehicle-efficiency

[10] https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2017/03/09/stories/1060051215

“Regulations.gov gets an API and more,” Sunlight Foundation, February 23 2012. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2012/02/23/regs-dot-gov-gets-an-api/. Accessed 5/19/2017

"eRulemaking Initiative: About Us," Federal Docket Management System. https://www.fdms.gov/public/aboutus . Accessed 5/28/2017.

External Links

www.regulations.gov

Notes

Lead image: Regulations.gov

Secondary image: Regulations.gov https://goo.gl/WQppoa