How to Comment on a Rule
Federal agencies develop and enforce rules affecting countless aspects of our everyday lives. One of the most important parts of the rulemaking process is the ability of the public to participate. Public feedback on federal regulations is necessary if we are to fully embrace our democratic values. The most important of these public participation mechanisms is the ability to comment on a proposed rule through what is commonly referred to as the "notice-and-comment" period in an informal rulemaking.
Rules go through several stages in their development. (Learn more here.) The public is given the opportunity to comment during the "proposed rule" stage. The public comment period generally lasts 60-90 days. Any person or group may comment on a rule and can easily submit comments online. There are three basic steps to commenting on rules online.
Step 1: Know Your Rule
To comment on a proposed rule, you must first know which rule you would like to comment on. There are a variety of ways to learn about proposed rules. Newspapers, magazines and other media outlets often cover the announcement of a proposed rule and may inform the public of the comment period. Public interest organizations may inform citizens of proposed rules by posting information on their websites.
The most complete way of finding information on proposed rules is by searching the Federal Register. The Federal Register is published every weekday and includes all proposed rules open for public comment. To learn tips for reading the Federal Register, click here. To read the Federal Register online, go to gpoaccess.gov.
Step 2: Find Your Rule Online
Once you have identified the proposed rule you would like to comment on, you will need to locate the rule on Regulations.gov, a website run by the federal government, designed to allow the public to find proposed and final regulations and to comment on them.
On Regulations.gov, you can search for rules, comments, and documents by entering keywords, browse rules and agency actions by topic, and view rules grouped by comment period.
After your initial query, you can refine your search by using the options on the left side of the screen. Regulations.gov provides links to narrow search results by agency, document type, and other options.
Keep in mind, a search on Regulations.gov will return specific documents. For example, if you search for "air pollution" the list of results could include a proposed rule on a specific air pollution standard, a scientific study related to that rule, and all the public comments on the rule.
A collection of documents related to one specific rulemaking is called a docket. Finding the link for the docket can be more valuable if you are attempting to track a rule or comment on a rule. The docket shows all of the documents related to a specific rule, including the rule itself, and provides the link to comment. Regulations.gov does not provide a way to search for dockets, but each search result includes a link to the docket that document belongs to.
Step 3: Submit Your Comments
After searching for and finding the proposed rule you would like to comment on, you may read the rule's Federal Register entry by clicking on the title link of the proposed rule in the left column. Under the title of the proposed rule you will see the last date for submitting comments. You may submit comments by clicking the icon on the top or far right of the screen.
To submit comments, you will first be required to provide your first and last name, city, state and country. All other fields of information are optional. Keep in mind, much of this information will be publicly viewable.
You may submit your comments in the box provided on the screen. You may also upload your comments by adding an attachment. Regulations.gov accepts all common file types including Microsoft Word documents and Adobe PDF files.
Your comments can be brief or in-depth and well researched. They can address only specific aspects of the proposed rule, fully address all aspects, or address the subject at-large. Often, the agency will ask the public to comment on specific aspects of the proposed regulation, but you may comment on any part or the whole regulation.
After submitting your comments, you will be provided with a comment tracking number so that you can review your comments after the appropriate agency has reviewed and posted them.