How Your Voice Can Impact EPA Regulations
Recently, EPA requested public comments on efforts to reduce the regulatory burden on US industry as required by Executive Order 13777 “Enforcing the Regulations Reform Agenda.” In response, EPA received nearly 27,000 public comments. Clearly, Americans want to have their say when it comes to the nation’s environmental regulations.
To make your voice heard in the regulatory process, you must understand how the process works, the steps involved, and how to make sure your comments are received.
“I believe in capitalism, but without regulations and oversight such as those provided by EPA, our environment will be destroyed in the search for a quick buck."
Every Federal agency’s process for proposing, finalizing, and promulgating new regulations is slightly different. In recent posts, we’ve highlighted the processes used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To read about the OSHA rulemaking process, check out The 7 Stages of All New OSHA Rules.
Now we turn the spotlight on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).When Congress (via a new Law) or the White House (by Presidential edict) assigns EPA the responsibility to develop a new regulation (or set of regulations), the Agency opens a Regulatory Development Docket for each regulation. This docket houses all documentation involved in the development of the new regulation. These dockets can be found on www.Regulations.gov.
Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM)If the EPA is unsure of the best way to proceed in creating the new regulation, the Agency may issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and a request for public comments in the Federal Register. This ANPRM usually describes EPA’s intent for the proposed rule and asks specific questions EPA would like feedback on before entering the Proposed Rule stage.
This is the first opportunity that the regulated community and the public have to influence the rulemaking.
After feedback on the APNRM is received and processed, or if the agency sees a clear path forward and skips the ANPRM step, the EPA crafts a proposed version of the rule it would like to promulgate. This is published in the Federal Register as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and is again accompanied by a request for public comment. This time, EPA is seeking from the public questions or concerns about the actual proposed regulatory language rather than just on the “broad strokes” of the ANPRM.
“Companies should not be allowed to skirt paying their fair share for damaging the environment. The cost of doing business includes adhering to regulations that keep our air and water clean. We cannot breath, drink, or eat money after everything has been poisoned…”
Feedback on the ANPRM or the NPRM can be submitted through www.Regulations.gov by searching the title or subject of the regulation to find the appropriate docket number. The docket will also inform you on how to submit comments via regular mail or email. The ANPRM and NPRM will also have comment submission information included when published in the Federal Register.
How EPA Collects and Responds to Public Feedback
If the public feedback raises any new major issues, or the underlying conditions change, EPA may submit a revised NPRM to address these issues before proceeding to the Final Rule stage. Regardless of whether issues raised by the response to the NPRM are considered major or not, the Agency must address all feedback.
Once EPA has crafted a final version of the rule, the Agency publishes it in the Federal Register. Preceding the actual rule text is a Preamble, which describes:
The Final Rule Stage
- The Agency’s statutory and regulatory mandates and requirements;
- What industries are likely to be subject to the new rule; and
- An analysis of the public comments and how EPA reacted to those comments (whether the comment had an effect on the final rule or not, and why).
The preamble is the Agency’s authoritative, but not official, word on what it meant when it issued the rules. It also includes a list of all the rules the Agency had to follow to make the new rules, and how the Agency met those requirements.
“Water is everything in Florida—it sustains our plants, and our wildlife, and provides cool relief in the summertime! I don't want this administration to jeopardize that.”
Once a final rule is promulgated in the Federal Register, the rule becomes Federally enforceable on the specified effective date, which is typically 30 to 90 days after publication and occasionally offset to match calendar or fiscal years. At this point, the new rule is also codified into Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR can be viewed at www.ecfr.gov and is updated in print form every year on July 1.
After promulgation, petitions for reconsideration of a rule may be accepted for a brief time. Petitions for a rule change may be made at any time after a final rule has been published.
Petitions for Reconsideration of EPA Rules
You can keep track of EPA’s regulatory activity via the Agency’s Regulatory Development and Retrospective Review Tracker (Reg DaRRT) and the Agency’s Action Initiation List (AIL)
“I am strongly opposed to the elimination of EPA regulations. Our government is our safety net, designed to make sure our air, water, and land are safe, clean, and plentiful.”
Whether you’re a business owner, an EHS professional, or a concerned citizen, knowing how EPA creates and rescinds environmental policy is the first step to getting your comments and opinions heard by EPA.
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