As of this morning, regulations.gov, the website that allows the public to submit comments to government agencies on proposed federal rulemaking, has stopped working. The site, which is operated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was functional until at least Wednesday night.
“The Trump administration, which has never been known for its commitment to an open government, has cut the public out once again. Trump can’t claim to be working for the best interests of the American people and our national parks, public lands and wildlife when there is no mechanism for the public to even participate,” said Chris Saeger, Western Values Project Executive Director. “The bottom line is all rulemaking should be accordingly delayed until the public is once again able to comment and participate in our government.”
This morning, a message on the regulations.gov homepage first said, “The EPA is currently affected by the government shutdown. System issues affecting continued operations of Regulations.gov have occurred.” After questions regarding the site’s shutdown began to surface, the message was changed to simply say, “As a result of system issues regulations.gov is unavailable. Work is currently underway to fully restore services. We regret any inconvenience that this outage has caused.” Screenshots a few minutes apart show the change on the unavailable website.
Although the shutdown has caused immense damage to national parks and hurt hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren’t getting paychecks, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees have continued to process oil drilling applications, and are going forward with meetings to allow oil lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – one of the administration’s most controversial policy goals. Earlier this week, Acting Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt also called back Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) workers without pay to allow the administration to continue working on offshore drilling.
Other proposals put forward by the Interior Department had until this morning remained open for public comment, including a proposed rule that could significantly curtail the department’s obligation to fulfill Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. It is unclear if the deadlines for public comment will be postponed due to the failure of regulations.gov.