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Regulatory Advisors

The team I work on in OPPT at EPA is atempting to tackle the problem of effectively communicating EPA's Regulations. We got the idea from OSHA, who has developed several expert system tools they call Expert Advisors. These tools work by asking the user a series of questions and determining if the OSHA Regs. apply to their specific situation. OSHA's tools are mostly downloadable executables that must be installed on the user's PC.

Our team is essentially doing the same thing, though we plan on being web-based (as in JAVA Applets in a web page), but with the potential for stand alone versions, and linking to other related EPA/Federal sites.

We think that these tools will help EPA meet the "Plain Language in Government Writing" directive by providing guidance that is clear and easy to understand. The way most FR Notices are written now, the average person is challenged to understand them. In addition, these systems will enhance compliance with regulations by directly assisting the target audience of the regulation, which could ultimately lead to greater public involvement in program development and implementation. For most of the rules we are considering doing an Expert Advisor on, the target audience would be small businesses, though we realize it is very important that the general public is able to understand the regulations that EPA writes, as it was mentioned that this could lead to greater involvement in our reg development process.

Though it won't be practical to develop Expert Systems for all EPA Regualtions, there will be a burden reduction for those that are. Spending 15 minutes answering questions in "plain english" is a lot easier than wading through a 15 page FR Notice. We are also thinking of extending this "advisor" concept to voluntary (non-regulatory) programs.

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