Resources for Participating in Federal Rulemaking

Published Jun 11, 2021 Updated Oct 24, 2022

Submitting a public comment to the record is an important way to make your voice heard in the policymaking process. Agencies seek input from the public to create the best regulations possible.

At the Union of Concerned Scientists, we want to make sure you, the experts and activists on the ground, know how to share your ideas and expertise in the policymaking process. Below you will find the resources you need to participate in a public comment period, whether that’s through submitting a written comment or testifying at a public hearing.

Continue reading below to learn more, or see the following print resources:

  • Inside the Federal Rulemaking Process. Learn how federal agencies develop the rules that implement laws passed by Congress or Executive Orders issued by the President.
  • How to Participate in Federal Rulemaking. This short guide explains how you can make your voice heard in the rulemaking process and use science to help agencies develop the best rules possible.
  • A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Regulatory Process. Want to learn more? This detailed guide written by former EPA staff describes best practices for making your voice heard when agencies make decisions about public policy that affect communities. The guide covers the federal rulemaking process as well as other processes that affect communities, such as permitting decisions or enforcement of regulations.
  • How to Testify at a Government Hearing. This guide walks through what to expect when you’re giving oral public comments or testifying at a government hearing, and provides guidance on how to structure an effective testimony.

What does the agency public input process involve?

For a quick read on the rulemaking process, see the Scientist Advocacy Toolkit factsheet Inside the Federal Rulemaking Process.

How can I submit a public comment?

For the basics on how to write a public comment and helpful tips to make your message strong, see the Scientist Advocacy Toolkit factsheet How to Participate in Federal Rulemaking.

How can I learn more about testifying at a public hearing during the comment period?

Check out this recording from the Science Network Workshop Series, “Testifying in Public Comment Periods and Local Hearings: How to Bring Scientific Knowledge to the Debate."

What about enforcement of rules? How do other agency actions affect local communities?

Agency decisions can impact where a drilling site is located or how environmental laws are enforced, which can have a direct impact on the health and well-being of communities. Far too often, decisions are made without input from frontline communities who will be affected by them most.

To learn more about environmental justice communities and the impact of agency decisions on communities’ health and well-being, see section two of A Citizen's Guide, which covers permitting, enforcement, and other information on community involvement in agency actions.

What do Science Network members have to say about writing public comments?

Check out PhD student Jeremy Sutherland’s blog on his experience writing public comments.

“Prior to 2017, I had seen ‘public comments’ mentioned…but I didn’t know what, when, or how such comments were made. Then a fellow environmental activist showed me how to comment on the proposal to shrink or eliminate national monuments. Eureka! Since then, I have submitted dozens of public comments.”

Melinda Mueller, Science Network member

"I feel that laws and regulations would be improved if they were better backed by science. The best way to get science-based rules is to have scientists add their knowledge and expertise via commenting BEFORE the rules get finalized."

Felix G., Science Network member