Make Your Voice Heard on Regulations.gov

Give the government a piece of your mind (politely).

One way to be an engaged citizen is to comment on pending U.S. government regulations related to issues that are important to you. It may be easier than you think.

The idea for this post came to me while I was watching a Presidents’ Day mattress sale commercial sandwiched between television segments of the Winter Olympic Games. I thought, “Geez, nowadays, we commemorate the birthday of our founding father with discounts on mattresses.” “Surely, we can honor George Washington in a more suitable way.”

George Washington dedicated most of his life fighting for, establishing, and protecting many of the freedoms Americans enjoy today. He embodied government for the people and by the people. When I think of George Washington, the Bill of Rights First Amendment immediately comes to mind.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” —United States Constitution Bill of Rights First Amendment

There are many ways that you can exercise your right to freedom of speech and share your thoughts and opinions with your elected officials and with government agencies including calling, writing, and emailing, attending town hall meetings and events, voting, participating in public demonstrations, and being active on social media.

Another important but perhaps not well-known avenue of communication is Regulations.gov. This website makes it easy for you to obtain information about pending regulations (also called rules) and then comment on them before they are finalized.

Until a few years ago, I had never heard of Regulations.gov so I decided to celebrate George Washington’s birthday this year by spreading the word.

E-Government Act of 2002

In 2002, Congress passed the E-Government Act to bring the federal government into the Internet age.

“To enhance the management and promotion of electronic Government services and processes by establishing a Federal Chief Information Officer within the Office of Management and Budget, and by establishing a broad framework of measures that require using Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.” —Public Law 107-347, 107th Congress

Regulations.gov is the Internet interface for the eRulemaking Program, which is just one of many E-Government initiatives, set in motion by the passage of the law.

Rulemaking Process

Rulemaking is the process used by almost 300 federal agencies to issue regulations for laws enacted by Congress. Congress decides what needs to be accomplished and the affected agencies determine how to do it.

During the rulemaking process, the agency gathers information, prepares a draft rule and supporting documentation, and publishes it in the Federal Register and on Regulations.gov.

The public then has an opportunity to review the information and comment on it within a specific period, often ranging from 30 to 60 days. Sometimes the comment period is extended or re-opened. Comments and documentation submitted by the public are considered during the decision making process. The final rule is published in the Federal Register along with the date it will go into effect.

If you are interested in learning more about the Federal Register or the Rulemaking process, there are links in the resources section below.

Regulations.gov

On the Regulations.gov website, you can browse pending rules to determine if there is something you want to comment on, but chances are you will become aware of an important issue from other sources like news reports, social media postings, people you know, newsletters, and heads up emails from organizations you trust. Keep your eyes and ears alert for terms like pending regulation, proposed rule, and rulemaking.

On your first visit to Regulations.gov, I suggest you dink around a bit to familiarize yourself with the site. For instance, clicking the “Learn” tab will take you to a page that provides an overview of the regulatory process and you can click on a link to learn about the eRulemaking Initiative. The “Help” tab houses tips on how to use the site, FAQs, and a glossary section, which I think is helpful for understanding terms. For instance, every rule has a docket ID that is essentially the file name of the electronic folder for the rule.

To find a specific rule from the “Home” page, you can either type a docket ID, agency name, or keyword into the search window or click on the “Browse” tab.

When you land on the docket home page, you will find a summary, supporting documents, important dates, contact information, and a “Comment Now!” button. If you have not previously had the opportunity to read the specifics of the issue, this is a good place to do it.

Making a Comment

When you are ready to enter your comment, click on the “Comment Now!” button. Type your comment into the window, include your name if you want, and attach documents that support your comment (if you have any). You will have an opportunity to review and edit your comment before submitting it.

Every comment is assigned a unique number and you can request to have it emailed to you. Depending on how many public comments are being submitted and processed, your comment may not immediately show up in the comments section on Regulations.gov.

The example below is my public comment regarding the federal government’s intent to expand offshore oil and gas exploration, which you have likely heard or read about in the past several weeks.

Regulations.gov Comment Example

If you would like to join me in opposing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, click on the following link Docket ID: BOEM-2017-0074, which will take you directly to the docket page. Then click the “Comment Now! button” to make your comment.

If your interest lies in another area such as education, agriculture, healthcare, transportation, or _____ that is okay. Select a different docket and submit a comment.

You have the right and the power to be an engaged citizen. Submitting public comments on Regulations.gov is just one way to do it.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what George Washington would think about Regulations.gov, but I hope he would approve.

Featured Image at Top: Colored Comment Bubbles on Blue Background – Photo Credit iStock/BrianAJackson

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Trump Administration is Threatening Our National Monuments

Take action to protect our National Monuments!

The Trump administration is attacking our national monuments and seems hell-bent on destroying some of these special places in the name of energy independence.

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” —Theodore Roosevelt

The United States federal government has a duty to protect and preserve our national monuments for the benefit of all Americans, present, and future. However, President Trump recently issued an Executive Order aimed at opening up some of our national monuments for oil and gas exploration and mining, thus demonstrating that he is unequal to the task of safeguarding America’s heritage.

So what is at stake?

What is a National Monument?

The term national monument seems confusing to me. When I think about the word monument, it brings to mind structures and statues. Although some do involve structures and statues, national monuments also encompass historic, scientific, archaeological, commemorative, and cultural objects and values of sites on federal land. National monuments can also be small and large parcels of land with unique and special features and even water bodies.

An important distinction is that the Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the President of the United States the authority to designate a national monument by issuing a presidential proclamation without requiring an act of Congress. The purpose of giving the president this authority is to enable him or her to protect and preserve landmarks, structures, objects, artifacts, and land that are important to America’s heritage and culture, especially those in danger of befalling harm, theft, or destruction.

The president does not unilaterally decide which locations or objects to designate as national monuments. The process involves gathering input from the public, businesses, community organizations, nonprofits, and local, state, and federal government agencies. The justification for establishing a national monument is outlined in the presidential proclamation designating it.

Historically, presidents have enlarged and occasionally diminished some national monuments designated by their predecessors. No president has ever overturned a national monument designation made by a predecessor. In some cases, national monuments have become national parks or national historic places via acts of Congress.

To date, there have been 157 national monuments designated by 16 presidents, beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch conservationist who spearheaded the Antiquities Act and signed it into law on June 8, 1906.

Why are National Monuments Important?

National monuments are sites that have been set aside to protect and preserve our heritage, history, and culture. They are important places for learning, exploration, and fun. Let’s look a few national monuments and imagine the United States without them.

Below are some examples that will give you an idea our national monument diversity.

  • Statue of Liberty (NY)
  • Fort Sumter (SC)
  • Grand Canyon (AZ)
  • Craters of the Moon (ID)
  • George Washington Birthplace (VA)
  • Mt. St. Helens (WA)
  • Rainbow Bridge (UT)
  • Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad (MD)
  • Devils Tower (WY)
  • Muir Woods (CA)

The above national monuments are not currently on the chopping block, so let’s look at the ones that are.

National Monuments that are Under Review

President Trump’s executive order directs the Department of the Interior to review all national monuments designated since January 1, 1996, by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama and determine if they should be reduced or even abolished to enhance American energy independence.

The Department of the Interior has a list on their website, which includes 22 terrestrial and 5 marine national monuments: Arizona (4), California (6), Colorado (1), Idaho (1), Nevada (2), New Mexico (2), Maine (1), Montana (1), Oregon (1), Utah (2), Washington (1), Atlantic Ocean (1) and Pacific Ocean (4).

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Six of the national monuments are in my home state of California and one is almost in my backyard.

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Interestingly, the threatened Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County, CA, near where I live, has two huge solar farms as neighbors that generate enough electricity to power 260,000 homes (the total population of the County is 279,000).

People come from all over to visit the Carrizo Plain National Monument to view spectacular wildflowers in the spring, explore its unique geology, enjoy native flora and fauna, study ecosystems, and learn about the cultural heritage of the area.

The San Andreas Fault runs through the Carrizo Plain so environmental degradation aside, it does not seem too smart to add more fossil fuel extraction sites in and around the region. Building more roads and infrastructure in this rural area would cause a massive disruption to the people who live, farm, and ranch in the area and to the wildlife, which inhabits it.

The Carrizo Plain area is already contributing to national energy independence and the national monument is preserving the largest native grassland in California as well as several endangered species of animals and plants and cultural artifacts.

As far as I am concerned, to change the status or boundaries of the Carrizo Plain National Monument to allow energy speculation does not make sense from a business perspective and would be an environmental and social travesty.

Call to Action

I hope that like me you feel national monuments are an important part of America’s heritage and worth protecting.

Here are some ways you can help.

Public Comment

Make a public comment at www.regulations.gov. Enter docket DOI-2017-0002 into the search window on the site and click the “Comment Now!” button on the right. Alternately, mail your comment to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240.

Important Dates: Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted before May 26, 2017, and written comments relating to all other National Monuments must be submitted before July 10, 2017.

Contact Elected Officials

Call, email, or write your elected officials and ask them to stand up for our national monuments.

Letter to the Editor

Write a letter to the editor or a viewpoint piece about why national monuments are important to you or tell a personal story about a specific national monument that is under review.

Social Media

Post national monument photos and comments on social media encouraging people to make a public comment.

Talk to People

Talk to your family, friends, and coworkers about this issue and ask them to get involved, too.

Thank you for taking action to protect our national monuments.

“Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Featured Image at Top: Wildflowers Bloom at Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County, CA in April 2017 – Photo by Bob Wick, BLM

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