By Michell McIntyre, Public Citizen
Regulatory Integrity Act (H.R. 5226) – passed on Sept. 14, 2016
The so-called Regulatory Integrity Act (H.R. 5226) should have been named the “Don’t Tell the Public Act.” After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used social media to inform the public about its impending protective rule for clean water and invited the public to submit comments on the rule, conservatives wanted to stop federal agencies from harnessing the power of social media.
H.R. 5226 aims to significantly undermine federal agencies’ ability to engage and inform the public in a meaningful and transparent way regarding its work on important science-based rulemakings that will greatly benefit the public. The bill would strictly prohibit agencies from issuing “public communications” that “emphasize the importance” of a particular agency action unless the communication has the “clear purpose of informing the public of the substance or status” of the particular action. It applies to a wide swath of regulatory actions including rulemakings, guidance documents, policy statements, directives and adjudications.
H.R. 5226 would severely impede, rather than enable, agency use of new communication technologies, most notably social media platforms, to reach and inform the public on lifesaving protections.