In response to an Executive Order 13891, Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have made agency guidance easier to access.
Compliance memos, letters of interpretations, and other non-regulatory guidance are not enforceable by law unless they are incorporated into a statute or contract. That said, these guidance documents can be a useful tool to get perspective on how Federal agencies interpret and enforce the regulations that businesses are subject to.
From Executive Order 13891:
“Agencies may clarify obligations through non-binding guidance documents, which the (Administrative Procedures Act) exempts from notice-and-comment requirements. Yet agencies have sometimes used this authority inappropriately in attempts to regulate the public without following the rulemaking procedures…“
The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to do three things:
Text of EO 13891 (October 9, 2019)
- Treat guidance documents as non-binding in law and in practice (with some exceptions);
- Take public input into account when formulating guidance; and
- Make guidance documents readily available to the public.
To meet the information sharing requirements, EPA and OSHA have set up websites to hold all agency guidance, memos, notices, directives, and other documents that pertain to the environmental and workplace safety regulations they create. The US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has set up a guidance portal as well.
EPA Guidance Documents
OSHA Guidance Documents
PHMSA Guidance Documents
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