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In Synch With Regulations.gov

FederalRegister.gov (FR2) is now tightly integrated with the electronic dockets on Regulations.gov. Comments submitted to Regulations.gov and processed for public display are now accessible from FR2. We also added connections to “Supporting/Related Materials” maintained in the dockets.

The OFR’s involvement in the e-Rulemaking program goes back to 2002, when OFR/GPO created a constantly updated catalog of Federal Register documents currently open for comment. Within a few months we joined with several other pioneering agencies, including DOT, FDA, and EPA to create the first generation of Regulations.gov. We have been helping to shape the vision of e-Rulemaking ever since.

When we launched FR2 in mid-2010, one of our goals was to integrate access to regulatory information found on other Federal websites. We started with links to Unified Agenda abstracts on Reginfo.gov and added a “big green easy button” that directs readers to comment forms on Regulations.gov. But we had to crawl through a lot of electronic haystacks to find the right needles to link up to. We couldn’t always make a solid connection. When Regulations.gov released its Application Programming Interface, we jumped at the chance to tap into it. Now we believe there will be no more dead ends for Federal Register readers who want to delve into the background of a regulatory action and submit comments.

So how do these new connections work? We added a “Regulations.gov Docket Info” sidebar to the right of Federal Register articles (scroll down past the FR info sidebar). It identifies the public comment docket and links to the docket folder, the comments received, and any supporting materials. We also show a running count of comments received in electronic dockets, based on the information currently available from Regulations.gov.

For example, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor published an article on the Family and Medical Leave Act. Our Regulations.gov Docket Info sidebar links to the docket so that readers can quickly view the comments already submitted, which may help inform their own comments.

In another example, NOAA published a proposed rule on the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan for the South Atlantic. The sidebar displays a link to the Supporting/Related Materials on Regulations.gov, giving readers “one-click” access to background material that supports the agency’s regulatory action. And here’s an example of an EPA final rule on pesticide tolerances with supporting material and an active comment docket.

We think these enhancements are a big win for e-government, inter-agency data harmonization efforts, and public participation in rulemaking.

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