As we previously reported, more than 150 organizations have requested that the Department of the Interior (DOI) extend the public comment period associated with DOI’s proposed changes to how it will process requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Proposed Regulations) by no less than 120 days due, in part, to the partial government shutdown. Without referencing or responding to these multiple requests, DOI announced that it will extend the comment period for the Proposed Regulations by a single day. According to the announcement from DOI, the comment period will now close on January 29, 2019 due to a “technical glitch” that occurred earlier this month, as well as to “ensure interested parties have the full 30 days to submit their responses” to the Proposed Regulations.
On Wednesday, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, delivered a letter to the acting Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, requesting public hearings on the Proposed Regulations, as well as an extension of the public comment period. In his letter, Grijalva states that Americans are being denied the opportunity to “be fully engaged” in DOI’s rulemaking process.
As of this morning, more than 2,700 comments have been received by DOI; however, none of the comments have been posted for public review on regulations.gov due to a lapse in funding for the site caused by the partial government shutdown. While the White House and both houses of Congress have reached an agreement to end the partial government shutdown, it remains unclear how the affected agencies, including DOI, will contend with the backlog of work amassed during the shutdown.