Recently, the EPA eRulemaking team released a new version of Regulations.gov, a website that tracks the various stages of the rulemaking processes of hundreds of federal agencies, and collects and publishes comments from the public about this rulemaking. We’ve written about Regulations.gov before, and continue to be impressed with the site’s progress in making the sometimes-daunting intricacies of federal regulations more approachable to members of the general public.
This release brings several new features that further this goal. Styling on many document pages has been significantly improved, making it much easier to read both rule and comment text. The presentation of metadata has also been made cleaner, so researchers can more easily find identifiers that help them connect a particular rule to related documents on other websites, such as FederalRegister.gov or RegInfo.gov. New panes have also been added to help users understand the public participation that has occurred so far in a given rulemaking, and to more easily recognize opportunities for further participation.
Of course, since last year’s release of the Regulations.gov API, Regulations.gov is more than just an informational website; it has also become a data provider that now facilitates a variety of third-party participation and analysis tools, as their Developers page now highlights. One such tool is Sunlight’s recently-released Docket Wrench, which uses Regulations.gov data to explore questions of corporate and public influence in the federal regulatory process. Docket Wrench evolved from two years’ worth of effort exploring the possibilities of analysis on federal regulatory comment data, and we believe the time we’ve spent building it has given us a unique perspective on the avenues of research this data makes available, as well as the opportunities for further growth and improvement in regulatory comment data going forward.
The team behind Regulations.gov deserves enormous credit for the progress they’ve made, but there remains much work to be done to give the public a complete, accessible and useful path into the federal regulatory process.