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F&W ECOL 515: Natural Resources Policy (Spring 2021) : Federal regulations (including Regulations.gov)

Code of Federal Regulations--where to find it

Proquest Regulatory Insight

  • Contains regulatory histories associated with public laws and executive orders.  These histories are compilations of Federal Register (FR) notices, proposed rules, and rules representing the complete rulemaking process associated with specific Public Laws or Executive Orders.
  • Subscription database; available on- and off-campus to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.
  • Detailed guide from Proquest.
  • Can search just the Code of Federal Regulations, or specific parts of the CFR, in the advanced search mode.
  • Contains full text of the CFR going back to 1977, with partial coverage for 1968-1977.

Hein Online Code of Federal Regulations

  • Subscription database; available on- and off-campus to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.
  • Contains titles from the first edition, published in 1938, to present,
  • Can search by full text, or retrieve items by citation

 

Code of Federal Regulations from Govinfo.gov

  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.
  • Official version, from the Government Publishing Office.
  • The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is one title/collection in the larger Govinfo.gov database. To search just the CFR, from the Govinfo.gov home page:
    1. Click the advanced tab.
    2. Click the box next to Code of Federal Regulations under Refine by Collection. 
    3. Type a search term in the second box under Search In.
    4. Click Search.
  • Help for using the CFR on Govinfo.gov
  • Contains titles from 1996 to present.

How federal regulations are made

Guides to the federal regulation (rule-making) process:

 

Regulations.gov

Regulations.gov is a federal government database that allows the public to track and participate in the federal rule-making process electronically.  Two especially useful functions for the purposes of this class are:

  • Search and retrieve all publicly available regulatory materials, including posted public comments, supporting analyses, proposed rules, rules, and Federal Register notices
  • Submit a comment on a regulation or on another comment

Date coverage:  Regulations.gov went live in January 2003.  It contains some content published before 2003.

Types of documents included

  • Proposed rules
  • Rules
  • Notices (describe official actions and functions that May affect the public or provide important information but do ot amend the Code of Federal Regulations).  Examples of notices include
    • Environmental impact statements
    • Decisions and orders applicable to particular entities.
    • Procedures for filing applications and petitions
    • Issuance or revocation of licenses
    • Delegations of authority, statements of agency organization
  • Public submissions: comments, citizen petitions
  • Supporting materials

A docket is a folder for documents or other information related to an agency's rulemaking or nonrulemaking activities.

Search tips

  • Enclose phrases in quotation marks.  Example: "national forest"
  • Default search results do not automatically include supporting and related material and public submissions containing the search term(s). To include these results, click boxes next to supporting and related material or public submission under the document type filter on the left.
  • To limit by a date range, click the search all box under the Posted or Comments Due filters on the left.  Select custom dates and enter a date range.
  • Regulations.gov refers to agencies, commissions, and subagencies (Fish & Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers) as "agencies."
  • To limit by agency that published a document, click in the search box under the Agency filter.  Begin to type in part of the agency name.  Agency names containing those letters will appear; click the agency you want to limit to.  You can only select one agency at a time.  Repeat the process if you'd like to limit to additional agencies.
  • You cannot limit public submissions and supporting and related materials by category (ie, subject groupings).
  • Comments
    • Not all comments are posted:  "Agencies review all submissions, however some agencies may choose to redact, or withhold, certain submissions (or portions thereof) such as those containing private or proprietary information, inappropriate language, or duplicate/near duplicate examples of a mass-mail campaign."
    • To view all comments published, click open docket folder near the top of an entry.
  • Results are displayed in order of relevance ("best match").  To change this, click the box to the right of sort by (near the top right of the results list) and select a different sort order.

Regulations--spotting and retrieving them

Agencies propose, open for comment, and finally publish "Final Rules" in Regulations.gov and the Federal Register.

A citation to the Federal Register may look like this:  80 FR 9218  or like this:  80 Fed. Reg. 9218.

Component of the citation 80 FR or Fed. Reg. 9218
What the component refers to Volume number Federal Register Page number

The regulations (Final Rules) passed in a given year are brought together by subject and published annually in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  This process is called "codification."

  • The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. (CFR Table of Contents from the Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute
  • Each title is divided into chapters, which usually bear the name of the issuing agency.
  • Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas. Large parts may be subdivided into subparts.
  • All parts are organized in sections, and most citations to the CFR refer to material at the section level.

A citation to the Code of Federal Regulations often looks like this: 7 CFR 650.22.  

Component of the citation 7 CFR 650 22
What the component refers to Title number (Title 7 covers agriculture) Code of Federal Regulations Part Section

You may need to specify which year/edition of the CFR you'd like to view.

Federal Register--how to use it

The Federal Register is a very specialized publication, with specialized types of content.  If you not sure of what you're looking at, or looking for, you may want to consult one of these guides to using the FR.

 

Section on the Federal Register in Proquest's guide to Regulatory Insight.

 

Federal Register Tutorial: What it Is and How to Use It

Federal Register--where to find it

Proquest Regulatory Insight

  • Contains regulatory histories associated with public laws.  These histories are compilations of Federal Register (FR) notices, proposed rules, and rules representing the complete rulemaking process associated with specific Public Laws or Executive Orders.
  • Subscription database; available on- and off-campus to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.
  • Search tips from Proquest.
  • Detailed guide from Proquest.
  • Can search just the Federal Register, or specific parts of the FR, in the advanced search mode.
  • Contains full text of the FR going back to Volume 1, 1936.

 

Hein Online Federal Register

  • Subscription database; available on- and off-campus to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.
  • Coverage goes from Volume 1, 1936 to present.  Updated daily.
  • Quick Reference Guide from Hein Online.

 

Federal Register from Govinfo.gov

  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.
  • Official version, from the Government Publishing Office
  • The FR is one title/collection in the larger Govinfo.gov database.  To search just the FR, from the Govinfo.gov home page:
    1. Click the advanced tab.
    2. Click the box next to Federal Register under Refine by Collection.  You will have to scroll down the list a ways.
    3. Type a search term in the second box under Search In.
    4. Click Search.
  • Help for using the FR.
  • Volumes 59 (1994) to present are available in Summary, PDF, text, or HTML format
  • Volumes 35 (1970)-58 (1993) and earlier are available in PDF only.

 

FederalRegister.gov

  • Unofficial (meaning "don't cite it in any legal documents"), HTML version of the FR, published by the Office of the Federal Register.
  • Some find the format easier to read and search.
  • Articles/entries contain links to the official FR documents.
  • Coverage goes from 1994 to present.
  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.

 

Historical issues of the Federal Register from the Library of Congress

  • PDFs of issues of the FR from Volume 1, 1936, through Volume 58, 1993.
  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.

Laws and regulations--how they differ

Laws, which are passed by Congress, tend to be fairly broad.  Laws are written by members of Congress (or, more likely, their staff), then altered, debated, and passed by Congress.  Members of Congress can express their opinions on bills "for the record," that is, in meetings and publications of Congress or its committees.  

Regulations, which are developed and enforced by executive branch agencies, or their sub-agencies and bureaus, are much more specific and detailed. 

When developing regulations, executive agencies publish proposed regulations in a publication called the Federal Register, and, in most cases in Regulations.gov .  Members of the public can submit comments on these regulations, and agencies publish summaries of these comments in the Federal Register and Regulations.gov as well.

Comparison of Federal Register and Regulations.gov

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Karen Dunn
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