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Commenting On Federal Rules and Regulations

Background

Congress authorizes federal laws and programs. Executive branch (federal) departments/agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Interior) implement and enforce laws and programs. Generally speaking, federal agencies establish Rules or Regulations (hereafter referred to as Rules) that govern how a law or program is administered. Moreover, under existing law, all federal agencies must consider public input when developing and implementing Rules.

For example, before the National Park Service can issue a Rule limiting certain activities in a given Park, a request for public comment on the Proposed Rule must be published in the Federal Register. The public and special interest groups submit comments in response to this Federal Register notice. The various stakeholders commenting will typically identify what they perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal.

Even if your comments do not result in changes to the Proposed Rule prior to the issuance of a Final Rule, comments are important. Regardless of the short-term impact on the rulemaking process, comments become part of a record that may in time be the basis for changes to the Rule.

Tips for Submitting Comments

  • Submit comments in accordance with the deadline identified in the official Federal Register notice (e.g., received by versus postmarked). If you are unable to meet the deadline but feel strongly that you need to comment, with as much lead time as possible contact the federal official identified in the Federal Register notice to request an extension. Extensions are not always granted.
  • Clearly identify the item you are commenting on. Include item or docket numbers and program titles as published in the Federal Register.
  • If you are commenting in your capacity as a scientist, say so. To the extent appropriate and possible, briefly identify credentials and experience you have that may distinguish your comments from others.
  • Clearly indicate if you are commenting as an official representative or spokesperson for an organization. Provide a brief overview of your organization and explain why your group is interested in the matter.
  • Clearly identify the aspects of the notice you are commenting on. As appropriate, clearly state whether you agree or disagree with proposed actions. Use data to support your position.
  • If you disagree with a proposed action, suggest an alternative.
  • Confine comments to the Federal Register notice you are commenting on.
  • Refrain from using politically-charged rhetoric.
  • To the extent possible, personalize your comments.
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