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Laws & Rules

Frequently Asked Questions about Rulemaking

What is rulemaking?

Who coordinates rule making at Ecology?

What is a WAC?

What do the WAC numbers mean?

What is a RCW?

What do the RCW numbers mean?

What is the statutory authority?

Where can I get copies of Ecology's WACs and RCWs?

What is an emergency rule?

What are the major phases in the rulemaking process?

How long does it take Ecology to adopt a rule?

Where can I get information about Ecology's Proposed Rules?

When can I comment on a proposed rule?

When is the formal comment period?

How do I submit formal comments that become part of the official record?

How can I make sure my comments are effective?

How will I know if and how Ecology responds to my comments?

What if I have an idea about how to make an existing rule better or a suggestion for a new rule?


What is rulemaking?

Rulemaking is when the Department of Ecology (Ecology) proposes, and adopts rules to protect the environment and public health. The Washington State Legislature guides all state rule making through a law known as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Chapter 34.05 RCW. All state agencies must follow the requirements of the APA.

Who coordinates rule making at Ecology?

The Rules and Accountability Section, in the Governmental Relations Office, coordinates all Ecology rulemaking. Bari Schreiner is the Agency Rules Coordinator.

What is a WAC?

WAC stands for Washington Administrative Code. State agencies adopt rules (WACs) to implement state or federal laws. Ecology rules are found under Titles 173 WAC, 508 WAC, 317 WAC, 372 WAC and 197 WAC.

What do the WAC numbers mean?

Example: 173-213-050

“173”
 
This is the Title number.
  Ecology rules are found under Titles 173, 508, 317, 372 and 197.
“213” (Written as Chapter 173-213 WAC).
 This number represents a chapter within a given title.
“050” (written as WAC 173-213-050).
 This number represents a section within the chapter.

 

What is a RCW?

RCW stands for Revised Code of Washington. An RCW is a law passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor.

What do the RCW numbers mean?

Example: 34.05.110

“34”
This is the Title number.
“05” (Written as Chapter 34.05 RCW).
This number represents a chapter within a given title
“110” (written as RCW 34.05.110).
This number represents a section within the chapter.

 

What is the statutory authority?

Statutory authority is when the State Legislature gives a State agency the permission to write and adopt a rule on a specific subject. Each time a rule is adopted or amended the statutory authority is listed in a paragraph below a specific section of the rule.

Below is an example of a statutory authority paragraph:

Statutory Authority: RCW 42.17.250.  98-16-052 (Order 98-12), § 173-03-010, filed 7/31/98, effective 8/31/98. Statutory Authority: RCW 43.17.060 and 42.17.260. 90-21-119 (Order 90-37), § 173-03-010, filed 10/23/90, effective 11/23/90. Statutory Authority: RCW 42.17.250 - 42.17.340.  78-02-041 (Order DE 77-35), § 173-03-010, filed 1/17/78.

Where can I get copies of Ecology's WACs and RCWs?

You can choose from the options below:

What is an emergency rule?

Ecology can adopt an emergency rule when it is necessary to preserve the health, safety, or general welfare of the public. Emergency rules do not require a public hearing and comment period and they are enforceable for only 120 days.

What are the major phases in the rulemaking process?

There are three major phases in the rulemaking process are:

  1. File the Pre-Proposal Statement of Inquiry Form (CR-101).

The purpose of the CR-101 is to notify the public about Ecology’s intent to adopt a new rule or amend or repeal an existing rule.

  1. File the Proposed Rulemaking Form (CR-102).

The CR-102 can not be filed until 30-days after the CR-101 is published in the Washington State Register (WSR). After the 30-day period Ecology can file a CR-102 at any time. The purpose of the CR-102 is to officially propose the draft rule language and to invite public comment.

The CR-102 filing provides:

  • A brief description of the rulemaking.
  • The associated WAC number.
  • A copy of the proposed rule text.
  • The date, time, and location of the public hearing(s).
  • The public comment deadline and the process for how to submit comments.
  • If required, a Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS).
  • If completed, instructions about where to get a copy of the preliminary cost-benefit and least burdensome alternatives analyses.

  1. File the Rulemaking Order Form (CR-103):

The CR-103 can not be filed until on or after the intended adoption date written on the CR-102 (expedited and emergency rules are exceptions). The purpose of the CR-103 is to officially adopt the rule with the signature of the Agency Director. Unless specified otherwise, a rule will become effective 31 days after the CR-103 is filed.

These rules follow a different process:

    1. Emergency rules become effective immediately upon filing a CR-103 at the Code Reviser’s Office.

    2. Expedited rules are open to a 45-day written objection period that starts once the proposed rule is published in the WSR. If Ecology does not receive any written objections the rule can be adopted any time after the objection period is over. The rule usually becomes effective 31 days later.

How long does it take Ecology to adopt a rule?

The APA allows a rule to be adopted as soon as 28 days, but no more than 180 days, after the CR-102 is published in the WSR. No rule can be adopted before the intended adoption date given on the CR-102. If Ecology does not adopt the rules within 180 days, the Code Reviser’s Office will withdraw it from the rulemaking process. Ecology must file a new CR-102 to continue rule making on the same topic. There are two exceptions to this time frame:

  1. Emergency rules become effective immediately upon filing a CR-103 at the Code Reviser’s Office.

  2. Expedited rules are open to a 45-day written objection period that starts once the proposed rule is published in the WSR. If Ecology does not receive any written objections the rule can be adopted any time after the objection period is over. The rule usually becomes effective 31 days later.

Where can I get information about Ecology's Proposed Rules?

You can choose from the options below:

When can I comment on a proposed rule?

Ecology offers formal and informal ways for you to comment on a proposed rule.

  • Public workshops and advisory committees (informal). Many times Ecology will hold public workshops or create advisory committees to solicit input during the rulemaking process. Look on the CR-101 for details on how to participate in the rulemaking process.

  • Official public hearing (formal). Public hearings are where you can submit your formal written comments or verbal “testimony”. Comments you give at a public hearing become part of the official record (responsiveness summary) required by the APA. Look on the CR-102 for the location, date, and time of the public hearing(s).

  • Official Comment period (formal). You may submit written comments to Ecology related to any rulemaking. Comments received after Ecology files the CR-102 and the close of the comment period become part of the official rulemaking record. Look at the CR-102 to see who, where and how you can submit comments.

When is the formal comment period?

The formal comment period starts when the CR-102 is filed with the Office of the Code Reviser. Look on the CR-102 for the date the comment period ends.

How do I submit formal comments that become part of the official record? 

All proposed rules, except emergency rules, are required to provide a formal public comment period. You can submit formal comments the following ways:

  1. Written comments sent by US Mail must be received no later than the end date of the formal comment period.
  2. Written comments sent by E-mail or Fax must be received no later than the end date of the formal comment period.
  3. Verbal comments are taken at the public hearing(s).

All comments received during the formal public comment period become part of the official record required by the APA. Comments are responded to in a document called a Concise Explanatory Statement.

How can I make sure my comments are effective?

It is important to:

  • Indicate the specific rulemaking you are commenting on. Refer to the WAC number listed on all rulemaking documents.

  • Identify who you are and how or why the rule affects you.

  • Be sure to explain why you disagree or agree. Be direct in your comment.

  • It is particularly useful to offer alternatives, compromise solutions, and specific language for your suggested changes.

  • Type your comments, if possible.

  • Be sure to include your name and address so that you can receive a copy of the Concise Explanatory Statement.

How will I know if and how Ecology responds to my comments?

Anyone who provides comments and contact information, during the formal comment period, will receive notice when the Concise Explanatory Statement is available. You will be able to find your name listed in this document with a reference to where, in the document, Ecology responded your comments.

What if I have an idea about how to make an existing rule better or a suggestion for a new rule?

Ecology wants to hear your ideas about how we can improve our existing rules. Please contact our Agency Rules Coordinator, Bari Schreiner at bari.schreiner@ecy.wa.gov or (360) 407-6998.