A federal rule-making site run by the EPA went dark on Thursday, but it was not due to the government shutdown, the agency says. Regulations.gov is an online portal that the public can use to view and submit comments on federal regulations and rules.
Initially, a message popped up at regulations.gov indicating that it is “not operational due to a lapse in funding, and will remain unavailable for the duration of the government shutdown.”
The website used by the public to comment on proposed federal regs — including major rules pitched by the Trump administration on a range of issues, including Title IX, the use of drones & taxes — has apparently gone dark due to the shutdown: https://t.co/TwLDvkVenV pic.twitter.com/HAuLOOpb23
— Ben Wermund (@BenjaminEW) January 17, 2019
The notice caused a great deal of confusion and consternation online.
When https://t.co/iNMJ5Bgmpc went down without notice today, it felt a little bit like the basic infrastructure of our democracy was falling apart around our ears. But at least we still have… Twitter. #TrumpShutdown #MakeItStop https://t.co/Q24II7X0yh
— Sarah Sorscher (@SarahSorscherDC) January 17, 2019
— Matthew Koehler (@KoehlerMatthew) January 17, 2019
it appears we no longer have https://t.co/kFtqge2Tqr. Site went down this morning due to the shutdown. Don't know if this stalls major rules from coming out or if comment periods need to be extended.
— Robert King (@rking_19) January 17, 2019
It has since been changed to reflect that the outage was due to “systems issues” and work is underway to restore the website.
apparently now unrelated to #GovernmentShutdown, @RegulationsGov repository of federal filings is down. 'system issues' blamed. site had earlier said it was due to shutdown. HT @BenjaminEW https://t.co/y3bzmemt7H pic.twitter.com/uz94UYg6Lz
— Jonathan Make (@makejdm) January 17, 2019
Meanwhile, EPA’s main site is functional, but has the following message posted at the top of the page:
Due to a lapse in appropriations, EPA websites will not be regularly updated. In the event of an environmental emergency imminently threatening the safety of human life or where necessary to protect certain property, the EPA website will be updated with appropriate information. Please note that all information on the EPA website may not be up to date, and transactions and inquiries submitted to the EPA website may not be processed or responded to until appropriations are enacted.
The EPA said in a statement that the regulations.gov message was posted in error, Politico reported.
“The language from the banner on the active page was inadvertently used to describe the regulations.gov outage,” an EPA spokesperson said. “It is currently being revised to reflect that we are actively working to restore the website following a technical glitch.”
Some are questioning whether the outage was a technical glitch or an inside job:
Somebody at the EPA took down Regulations-dot-gov and falsely blamed it on the shutdown.
This should be fully investigated.https://t.co/GebyrdSLSb
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) January 17, 2019
According Politico, the website “was operational until at least Wednesday evening.”
The website is a key part of the federal rulemaking process, as it’s where the public is able to comment on regulations proposed by the administration, including major rules pitched by the Trump administration on campus sexual assault, the use of drones and taxes.
Comments will close on the campus sexual assault rule on Jan. 28. Now liberal activists want the administration to push back comment deadlines due to the shutdown.
“Regardless of when the site’s full functionality is restored, the administration should immediately extend all open comment periods for however long the government shutdown lasts to protect the public’s fundamental right to participate in the regulatory process,” the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen said in a statement. “Anything less than a blanket comment period extension for the full duration of the shutdown means the Trump administration is cutting the public out of the regulatory process — and does not take the importance of public comment seriously.”
Because of the shutdown, https://t.co/tJb86yxBA9 just went dark. Without it, there's no way to ensure federal agencies remain accountable and address the public’s priorities – from health and safety to worker protections to the environment and more. https://t.co/JW273jJ4VT
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) January 17, 2019
Public Citizen is a left-wing consumer rights advocacy non-profit group.