(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today urged the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to ensure all citizens can participate in the federal rulemaking process by pausing the comment periods for non-emergency pending and proposed new regulations, and postponing all related hearings, until President Trump lifts the national emergency declaration he issued March 13.
The extraordinary circumstances that citizens and government alike face because of the COVID-19 pandemic have also created serious obstacles for people who may want to voice their opinion about rules that affect them, CBF noted in its letter to OIRA Administrator Paul Ray.
Interested citizens may lack the technology needed to weigh in remotely or may be unable to attend meetings or collaborate with others on their comments. “Perhaps most importantly,” CBF wrote, “many will be consumed with taking care of themselves, their businesses, families, communities, and neighbors.”
CBF also called on the White House to suspend comment periods and hearings for all non-emergency proposals across the federal government that require public notice and comment. Currently individual agencies are choosing for themselves how to respond to the national emergency. This inconsistency only adds to the burden citizens face if they want to make their voices heard.
Jason Rano, CBF’s Federal Executive director, said this about the letter:
“Across the Chesapeake Bay watershed and around the country, Americans are taking extraordinary measures to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the hardships, they are isolating themselves, shuttering their small businesses, and otherwise upending their lives to respond to this sobering national emergency.
“For EPA and some other agencies to insist on proceeding with business as usual is unacceptable. Citizens in the Bay region and throughout the United States shouldn’t have to choose between caring for their families and commenting on federal rules that affect their lives.
“CBF urges the White House to recognize this ‘new normal’ and pause all public comment periods and hearings across the federal government until President Trump lifts the emergency declaration. It’s the only fair thing to do.”