EPA wants ideas on e-rulemaking experiment

About 20,000 page views have been recorded for online experiment

The Environmental Protection Agency is nearing the final stages of its open-government e-rulemaking experiment on the Regulations.gov Exchange website, which has drawn nearly 20,000 online visits.

The EPA’s goal in the project is to gather ideas from the public in advance of an upcoming proposed rule on the agency’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program.

Under the pollution discharge program, cities, states and communities are obliged to report data to the EPA regarding pollutants being released into public watersheds. The upcoming rulemaking is anticipated to cover electronic reporting to meet the requirement.

The EPA started the NPDES Discussions pilot project on the Regulations.gov Exchange website last July and expects to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register by May and a final rule in 2012. The agency has been gathering public comments while developing the proposed rule.

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The EPA’s experiment is part of the White House’s push for open government. Traditionally, federal agencies seek comments from the public after a proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. Under President Barack Obama, agencies have been encouraged to develop e-rulemaking projects to gather feedback from the public before publishing a proposed rule.

The Regulations.gov Exchange portal was established last year to allow users to participate in making improvements to e-rulemaking and the Regulations.gov website.

“Through the rulemaking process, EPA will examine a number of alternatives, ask for and receive comments and advice from many parties, including the public, and eventually develop a proposal outlining which types of reporting would be required to be done electronically, and how electronic reporting would be done,” the EPA said in its online description of the NPDES Discussions project.

Currently, visitors to the NPDES Discussions project website can submit unofficial comments on eight topics, including whether there is sufficient Internet accessibility to enable community data reporting, who should monitor data quality, how communities can use the reported data, and what barriers exist to electronic reporting. About 4,500 page views have been recorded for the current discussions.

The project website also has an archive of eight previous NPDES discussions dating from 2010, totaling about 16,400 page views. The EPA also posted materials on the site from public meetings and webinars it held last year to publicize the upcoming rule.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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