NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno, along with partners, submitted the following letter to Secretary Bernhardt (DOI), Administrator Ferriero (NARA), and Administrator Wheeler (EPA) requesting a pause to public comment periods on active rulemaking and non-rulemaking notices within their respective agencies.
Due to the emerging health crisis in the United States and beyond, and the recent executive order declaring a state of national emergency on March 13, 2020, we request a formal pause on all open public comment periods on active rulemakings and non-rulemaking notices from the Department of Interior (DOI) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), primarily managed by the Federal Register and Regulations.gov, as well as the ePlanning and Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) sites for the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, respectively.
As the leaders of our nation’s largest environmental and advocacy organizations, we write on behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide to recognize the significant impact of COVID-19 on normal working and living conditions. These new circumstances are impairing the ability of the general public, issue experts and others to conduct their daily routine, regular business, and/or weigh in on federal government actions that affect them. As a result, there will be significant impacts to so many of our typical democratic processes, not the least of which is the vision of the eRulemaking Program “to enable the public ease of access to participate in a high quality, efficient and open rulemaking process,” that governs our rulemaking procedures. Inevitably, the ease of access and the efficiency of the program will be affected by the current health crisis and disruption to public services, disabling responses to various comment periods and notices published on regulations.gov and in the Federal Register from DOI, EPA, NOAA and other agencies.
At present regulations.gov acknowledges 90 open comment periods on rulemakings and over 70 open comment periods on non-rulemaking notices (e.g. pesticide registrations and product reviews, water quality certifications, etc.) at DOI and EPA. While the federal government should comment periods across every federal department or agency, our organizations share a specific and significant interest in issues under the jurisdiction of DOI and EPA. As agencies tasked with protecting our nation’s public health, environment, wildlife, natural and cultural resources, and more, we request your understanding at this time and willingness to pause agency rulemakings and other issues requiring public comment periods. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are extensive, and with so many contributing to the response, upending their lives, ill or caring for the ill, and unable to comment on federal actions or work normally, there is no way to ensure adequate public engagement in federal agency actions.