Online rule-making portal dovetails with E-Gov Act requirement

The launch of the online rule-making portal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget Dec. 18 will jump-start one of the first provisions of the E-Government Act.

Section 206 of HR 2458 calls for agencies to ensure that all federal rules and regulations are accessible to the public through the Web and for OMB to set a deadline for agencies to create electronic docket systems.

The debut of www.regulations.gov could help agencies satisfy that mandate. The portal will let citizens and businesses find and comment on proposed federal rules.

Kevin Landy, counsel for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee and the bill's sponsor, said the Transportation Department is the only agency to put all its rule-making efforts on the Web.

By establishing an online system, OMB is pushing agencies toward the fully electronic docket system that the act demands.

Interactive online dockets

'The provision requires citizens to be able to file comments via e-mail and be able to view and respond to others' comments online,' Landy said.

Although OMB had planned to launch the site in September, load testing and software compatibility problems forced it to push the date back'first to October and then to this month. Despite the delays, the project still is ahead of its Dec. 31 deadline.

An OMB official said the administration moved the project to EPA from the Transportation Department in October after an independent evaluation of agency online rule-making systems found that EPA's system is best suited for possible governmentwide use. The project's business case calls for agencies to migrate to the EPA system, the official said, so it made sense for EPA to manage the project.

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