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Tag Archive: Regulations

The Sunlight Foundation’s Comments on the FAA’s Proposed Open Data Policy

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On May 1, The Federal Aviation Administration published a [Proposed Open Data Policy]( in the Federal Register, and requested public comment by [July 28]( The FAA proposed 10 broad guidelines for its open data policies, among them points about non-exclusivity of access to data, the appropriateness of employing cost recovery from external entities, and the transparency with which they execute on the policy itself. The Sunlight Foundation had something to say about each of these issues, and so we submitted the public comment below, which we hand-delivered today to the FAA's Docket Office inside the Department of Transportation. Our comment should show up on [Docket Wrench]( and [](!docketBrowser;rpp=100;so=DESC;sb=docId;po=0;dct=PS;D=FAA-2013-0392) before long. In the mean time, read what we submitted:

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Integrating the US’ Documents


A few weeks ago, we integrated the full text of federal bills and regulations into our alert system, [Scout]( Now, if you visit [CISPA]( or a fascinating [cotton rule](, you'll see the original document - nicely formatted, but also well-integrated into Scout's layout. There are a lot of good reasons to integrate the text this way: we want you to see why we alerted you to a document without having to jump off-site, and without clunky iframes. As importantly, we wanted to do this in a way that would be easily reusable by other projects and people. So we **built a tool called [us-documents](** that makes it possible for anyone to do this with federal bills and regulations. It's [available as a Ruby gem](, and comes with a [command line tool]( so that you can use it with Python, Node, or any other language. It lives inside the [unitedstates project]( at [unitedstates/documents](, and is entirely public domain.

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CFTC’s Credit Swap Reporting Requirements Result in Chaos


The U.S. is trying to monitor the kinds of transactions that contributed to the 2008 financial crash, and subsequent recession, but the effort has shot itself in the foot, all for lack of a data standard. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has been tasked with oversight of credit default swaps, but their attempts to define a standard for reporting in this previously unmonitored market have not worked out as planned.

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In years before Waco explosion, fertilizer trade groups lobbied for lax oversight


Photo source: istockphoto

The tragic explosion north of Waco, Texas, was preceded by years of lax oversight. As Reported by Bloomberg, OSHA had not inspected Adair Grain’s West Fertilizer Company facility since 1985. Mark Drajem and Jack Kaskey also reported that when other agencies—including the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency—did swing by, they found violations and issued thousands of dollars in fines. With a dubious track record, how did the Texas plant avoid regulation?

Part of the blame rests with Congress and the special interests that target it. Consider ...

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rdg_shotRecently, the EPA eRulemaking team released a new version of, 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 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 or 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 API, 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 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 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.

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