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Home Advanced Search for Open Regulations Related Links eRuleMaking Help October 14, 2004      


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Teminology
  2. eRule Viewing Formats
  3. Public Comments Using Regulations.Gov Website

1.      Terminology.

1.1   What is the Federal Register?

The Federal Register is the official daily publication for final regulations, proposed regulations, and other notices of Federal Departments and Agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. The Federal Register also provides access to a wide range of Federal benefits and opportunities for funding. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Office of the Federal Register, prepares the Federal Register for publication in partnership with the Government Printing Office (GPO), which distributes it in paper, on microfiche and on the World Wide Web. For additional information on the Federal Register, click here

1.2   What is the CFR?

The CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) is an annual codification of the general and permanent regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. The CFR is available:

  • As an electronic publication, free of charge, on the GPO Access Service, maintained by the U.S. Government Printing Office.

  • As a paper publication, by full set subscription or individual copy purchase, from the Superintendent of Documents, or at any Federal Depository Library.

  • CFR volumes currently available for sale.

  • 1.3   What is a rulemaking?

    A rulemaking is the name given to the process followed by Federal Departments and Agencies to formulate, amend, or repeal a regulation. A regulation generally is an authoritative requirement, issued by Departments and Agencies that implement a statute and has the force of law. The rulemaking process generally consists of a proposed regulation stage and a final regulation stage. For most categories of rulemaking, the Department or Agency provides notice of a proposed regulation and any person or organization may review this document and submit comments on it in writing. The period during which public comments are accepted may vary for individual rulemaking actions, but it usually is 30, 60, or 90 days.

    As part of the rulemaking process, the Department or Agency is required to consider the public comments received on the proposed regulation. When the Department or Agency publishes the text of the final regulation in the Federal Register, it generally incorporates a response to the significant issues raised by the commenters, and discusses any changes made to the regulation in response.

    1.4   What is a docket?

    A rulemaking docket serves as the official repository for the collection of documents or information related to a particular rulemaking. When a Federal Department or Agency establishes a public docket for a specific rulemaking, the docket may include the documents specifically referenced in the Federal Register document, any public comments received, and other information used by Department and Agency decision makers, or otherwise related to the rulemaking. To locate the docket for any of the rulemaking activities listed on this website, refer to the “Addresses” section of the specific Federal Register document. Any comments you submit to a Department or Agency in a rulemaking may be made available for public inspection, copying, and dissemination via the paper and/or electronic docket.

    1.5   What is REGULATIONS.GOV?

    The Regulations.gov website is the central online rulemaking portal of the United States government. It is being offered as a public service to increase participation in the Federal government’s regulatory activities. Regulations.gov enables you to search, view, and comment on proposed Federal regulations from approximately 160 Federal Departments and Agencies through a single Web site. The site allows visitors to search by keyword or Department or Agency to find proposed regulations. Each entry provides a quick link to a comment form so that visitors can type in their comments and submit them to the appropriate Department or Agency. The consolidated site enables visitors to easily move from one regulation to the next. By providing electronic access to open rulemaking actions, Regulations.gov gives citizens a greater opportunity to provide their views.

    The Regulations.gov website is the result of a collaborative effort of several Federal agencies including: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Department of Health and Human Services/Food and Drug Administration (HHS/FDA), General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Archives and Records Administration/Federal Register (NARA/FR). NARA/FR provides content for the website from Federal Register documents and data, the Government Printing Office (GPO) provides user support and hosts the main website, and EPA hosts the comment portion of the website.

    Regulations.gov uses the existing information systems at GPO and NARA. The same Federal Register documents that GPO provides online are also used to keep Regulations.gov up-to-date. Therefore, Regulations.gov is updated every business day as new regulations are proposed. All the proposed and final regulations that are open for comment are cataloged and then posted to the site. With Regulations.gov, a person has easy, manageable access and the ability to comment on proposed regulations at a single website.

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    2.      eRule Viewing Formats.

    2.1   Which view do I use – HTML or PDF?

    If you are accessing Regulations.gov for the first time, start by clicking on the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) view. This view is not dependent on specific word processing or other software applications. The HTML format was selected because it is the most universally readable text option. The HTML view only contains text, it does not contain any graphics, lines, or symbols that appear on the actual Federal Register page.

    The Portable Document Format (PDF) view replicates the exact page from the Federal Register. PDF documents are easily exchanged among different computer systems while preserving the documents' typography, graphics, lines, and page layout. To read or print a file in PDF format, you must install the Acrobat Reader program on your computer. Acrobat Reader is published by Adobe Systems, Inc. and is free to download and install. Acrobat Reader can work as a standalone application, or as a plug-in within Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Get Acrobat Reader.

    2.2   Is there a chance the HTML version of the document is missing text information contained in the Federal Register (PDF version)?

    No. The text contents within the actual Federal Register are automatically extracted to create the HTML version. There will be no variation between the text in either version. Graphics or special symbols cannot be extracted in HTML and will not appear in the HTML version.

    2.3   Can I view an HTML version and the PDF version at the same time?

    Yes. Simply click on each hyperlink and two windows will appear. One window may minimize when the other is opened. Check your status bar if a window disappears.

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    3.      Public Comments Using Regulations.Gov Website.

    3.1   How can I find regulations that are open for comment on this website?

    Using either the "ADVANCED SEARCH" button on the navigation bar found at the top of each page or the "Search Open Regulations Links" on the home page enables you to select one of the several search tools that will identify Regulations open for comment.

    Search tools on the Home page include:

  • Search Regulations Published Today

  • Search Regulations by Topic

  • Search Comments Due Today

  • Search by Agency

  • Search by Keyword

  • Search tools on the Advanced Search page are:

  • Search by Subject Category

  • Search by CFR

  • Search by CFR Title and Part

  • Search by Agency and Keyword

  • Search Open Regulations Published From (date) To (date)

  • Search Comments Due From (date) To (date)

  • Search Open Regulations Published From (date) To (date) and Agency

  • Search Comments Due From (date) To (date) and Agency

  • Searches on the Home Page:

    Selecting the "Regulations Published Today" link will display a list of all Regulations open for comment published in the Federal Register today.

    To search for regulations by topical area, select the "Regulations by Topic" link. This will display a page of all First Gov topics. Selecting the "Search Open Regs" link for each Topic will display a list of all current Regulations open for comment for that topic.

    Clicking on the "Comments Due Today" link will display a list of all Regulations with Comment Due dates expiring today.

    For a search by Department or Agency, click the arrow next to the Agency box and a pull-down window will appear showing all Agencies with Regulations open for comment. The pull down Agency list provides you with the ability to search for open regulations by an entire department or a sub-agency within a department. Select the Department or Sub-Agency you want to search, and then click the “Go” button. A listing of regulations open for comment at that Department or Sub-Agency will be returned by the search. Example - if you select the "Department of Agrigulture" you will receive a listing of all sub-agencies within the Department of Agriculture that have regulations open for comment. Then select the Sub-Agency. A list of all regulations open for comment for that Sub-Agency will appear. If you select the "Department of Agriculture - ALL" you will receive a listing of all regulations open for comment with NO sub-agency breakout.

    The keyword search mechanism will search the text contained in the Federal Register. For a search by keyword, enter individual keywords or phrases in the “Keyword Search” box, indicate if you are requesting an "Exact Phrase" or "Any Word" search, and then click the “Go” button, a list of all regulations open for comment will appear. The "Exact Phrase" searches for the phase exactly as you input. The "Any Word" search will search for each word.

    Searches on the Advanced Search Page:

    Selecting the "Subject" search allows you to search for regulations open for comment by Subject Categories as defined by the Office of the Federal Register. The Subject Categories are used in the Table of Contents in the daily Federal Register. If you select this search you will be presented with a pull-down list of all Subject Categories containing regulations open for comment. Select the subject category and a list of all regulations open for comment within that subject category will appear.

    The CFR Title search allows you to search for regulations opens for comment by CFR Title number. If you select this search you will be presented with a pull-down list of all CFR Titles that have regulations open for comment. Select the CFR Title and a list of all regulations open for comment within that CFR title will appear.

    The CFR Title and Part search allows you to refine your CFR title search. In the Part box you can type in one or more CFR parts you wish to search for. To input multiple part number enter the parts separated by commas (101,250). Once you have input the CFR part numbers a list of all regulations open for comment within the CFR Title and Part(s) will appear.

    The "Combined Search by Keyword and Agency Name" allows you to search for keywords and a specific Agency. The keyword search and Agency Name search rules are the same as described above.

    The Open Regulations Published/Comment Due From (date) To (date) allows you to search for regulations open for comment or with a comment due date for a specific time frame. To execute this search select if you are looking for regulations "published" or "comments due" and then type in your From (beginning) date and the To (ending) date. All dates must be input MM/DD/YYYY. A listing of all regulations open for comment will appear.

    If you select the Published Date search mechanism, any future dates are converted to today's date. For the Comment Due Date search dates prior to today's date will be converted to today's date.

    To refine the above search you can check the "AND" box and then select an Agency.

    3.2   How can I submit electronic comments using Regulations.gov?

    Each Federal Register document tells you how, when, and where to comment on a proposed regulation. Department and Agency procedures and practices vary, so please refer to the specific Federal Register document before submitting your comment. Some Departments and Agencies may continue to accept only paper comments by mail, or fax, or hand delivery (See 3.3). Do not submit Confidential Business Information (“CBI”) to Regulations.gov. Comments submitted through Regulations.gov cannot be claimed as CBI. Comments received through the website will waive any CBI claim for the information submitted. To submit CBI, follow the directions in the Federal Register document on which you are commenting, or contact the Agency or Department personnel whose name appears in the Federal Register document. For those Departments and Agencies accepting electronic comments, you may submit your comment directly through the Regulations.gov website. You should be aware that some Departments and Agencies impose special requirements for the submission of information, such as confidential business information or copyrighted works. For further information, follow directions in the specific Federal Register document, or contact the specific Department or Agency directly.

    Once you have performed a search for open regulations, you may submit comments on any of the regulations listed by clicking the “Submit a Comment on this Regulation” link. The link will open a blank comment form in a separate Internet browser window for you to fill out. The form is limited to 4,000 characters or roughly two pages of comments. You may send more than one comment form. In most cases, you may also attach an electronic file as a part of your comment (see 3.13). The direct links for submitting comments can be accessed in both the HTML and PDF formats of the Federal Register document on the Regulations.gov website. Direct links may also be located in the “Address” section of the open rulemaking action listed on the website.

    The comment form that appears when you click the “Submit a Comment on this Regulation” link is specific to the particular Department or Agency that will receive the comment. The comment form includes instructions on how to submit the comment and what information must be provided for the comment to be considered. Some Departments and Agencies may require you to provide your name and address in order for your comment to be considered, while others will accept anonymous comments. The completed comment form will include a unique document identification number and a date and time stamp applied automatically by the Regulations.gov website.

    Your comments will not be considered until they have been properly received by the specific Department or Agency. You should refer to the Federal Register, available online via the GPO Access website to learn the current status of a proposed or final regulation or the special submission requirements for that Department or Agency. You should inquire directly with a Department or Agency to learn whether it has received your comments.

    3.3   How else can I submit comments?

    Each Federal Register regulatory action that is open for comment through the Regulations.gov website contains specific instructions on how to submit comments for that particular rulemaking action. Presently, all Federal Departments and Agencies continue to allow you to deliver your written comments to the docket by mail or by hand. For those agencies that accept only paper comments (see 3.8), you may have to print your comment from the website and send it to the address listed on the completed form. Some Departments and Agencies also receive comments submitted by fax, e-mail, or directly through their own Internet websites.

    3.4   Should I keep a paper copy of my comments?

    Yes, you should keep a copy of your comments. If you submit your comments electronically through the Regulations.gov website, you may make a copy of your comments by clicking on the “Print” button that will appear on the completed comment form. If you send your comments to a Federal Department or Agency in paper form, you should make an extra copy for your records.

    3.5   Where are my electronic comments going?

    Your comments are sent via the Regulations.Gov website by the EPA to the Department or Agency that is asking for public comment and has established and assigned the Docket Identification Number for the action you are commenting on. All public comments received are then reviewed by that Department or Agency and taken into account when the final regulation is developed.

    3.6   What if I submit a comment and then change my mind or want to correct an error on my submitted comment?

    Comments are not retrievable once submitted. Simply re-submit another comment referring to your previous comment, correcting any errors and/or re-stating your position or opinion. The applicable Department or Agency will be reviewing the comments submitted.

    3.7   Can I send comments directly to the Federal Register or Government Printing Office?

    No. Please do not send written or electronic comments on regulations to the Federal Register or the Government Printing Office. Misdirected comments cannot be forwarded.

    3.8   How can I verify that my comments have been received by the Department or Agency?

    Federal Departments and Agencies generally do not acknowledge that they have received specific public comments. However, when a Department or Agency establishes a public docket for a specific rulemaking, public comments are placed in that docket. The Department or Agency will process your comments upon receipt, but the availability of your comments in the public docket will depend on the particular Department or Agency’s process. Many Departments and Agencies place public comments in their public docket as they are received. If a specific Department or Agency’s public docket is available on line, you can search it to determine whether your comments have been placed in the docket.

    If the Department or Agency’s public docket is not available on line or if you otherwise want to verify that they have received your comments, please inquire directly with the Department or Agency’s docket or other Department or Agency contact to learn whether your comments have been received.

    3.9   How can I contact the Department or Agency?

    Contact information can be obtained from the Federal Register notice for the specific rulemaking action. Please refer to the “Addresses” and “For Further Information Contact” sections of the Federal Register notice.

    3.10  What do I do if the directions within the “How to Comment” section are incomplete or cut-off in mid sentence?

    Contact the GPO Access User Support Team via any of the following options:

  • E-mail:    gpoaccess@gpo.gov
  • Phone:    888-293-6498 (202-512-1530 from the Washington, D.C. metro area)
  • Fax:         202-512-1262
  • 3.11  What if there are conflicting directions on how to send my comment?

    When there is a potential conflict in the submission requirement, follow the Federal Register directions for submission. If it fails, print out your comment and follow the Federal Register directions for mailing.

    3.12  Can I retrieve cleared comments if I accidentally hit the Clear button?

    No. Cleared comments are not retrievable.

    3.13  Can I attach a file along with my comment?

    Attachments can be submitted on those comment submission forms that provide a field for file attachments. When you press the Continue button, the attachment option will be presented on selected Department or Agency forms.

    When those fields are not present on some Department or Agency forms, attachments may not be sent electronically. For those agencies, you will have to print your attachment and send it to the Department or Agency at the address listed on the completed form.

    3.14  What do I do if I get an error message that says “Type Mismatch”?

    Check the file extension of your attachment and ensure it is one of those extensions supported in the Comment Submission Form drop down box.

    3.15  What do I do if I get an error message that says “No Attachment Specified”?

    Verify that your file is attached to the submission form.

    3.16  What do I do if I get an error message that says “File Size Exceeded”?

    Individual submissions are limited to 2MB. Either compress the attached file(s) or submit each attachment separately in multiple submissions.

    3.17  What personal information does this website collect?

    The Regulations.gov website does not collect or permanently store personal information about you. This website does collect summary information used for system administration and site security, including the domain name and Internet Protocol addresses from which you are visiting, the type of browser and operating system being used to access the site, the pages you are visiting, the time you spend at each page, and the time and date of your visit. The website uses this information to create summary statistics, which are then used for such things as assessing what information is of most and least interest, determining technical design specifications, and identifying system performance or problem areas.

    For purposes of submitting comments, some Federal agencies may require that the user include a name and address on the comment form. This information is forwarded to the Department or Agency requiring the information and is not permanently stored by Regulations.gov.

    3.18  Does this website publicly disclose my comments?

    No. This website does not disclose any comments. However, your comments are sent to a Federal Department or Agency and will be publicly disclosed in a rulemaking docket or on the Department or Agency’s Internet website. Some Departments and Agencies require you to provide your name and contact information for your comment to be considered, and others allow you to comment anonymously. Please refer to the preamble of the Federal Register document you are commenting on and that Department or Agency’s website to learn what personal information you may be required to submit and to review that Department or Agency’s privacy policy. Any personal information you choose to include in the body of your comments also will be provided to the Department or Agency receiving your comments and may be publicly disclosed in a docket or on the Internet.

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