The History Behind the Information Collection Request (ICR)
Posted: January 28th, 2014Author: All4 Staff
Perhaps the most common notice in the Federal Register is the Information Collection Request (ICR). The ICR is the means by which U.S. EPA, and other Federal agencies, can collect information from various stakeholders including the regulated community, interested parties, and state agencies; however, Federal agencies are required to justify and explain why the collection of information is necessary. The information collection process is regulated by the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 which requires Federal agencies to follow specific procedures when they collect information from groups that consist of 10 or more non-Federal entities, whether entities are individuals or corporations. U.S. EPA and other Federal agencies are required to submit the ICR to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval. A key component to the 1995 PRA was the requirement that the collection of information involving recordkeeping and reporting requirements in various regulations was also to be covered in the ICR process.
The process for developing the ICR is a multi-step process and an ICR will typically make three appearances in the Federal Register. Before the ICR become public, U.S. EPA initially submits a completed ICR notice to the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) which reviews the ICR to make certain that it meets the necessary requirements. The OEI determines if the ICR is complete, if it serves a useful purpose, and if the purpose of the ICR is clearly explained. Once the OEI approves the ICR, the ICR is published in the Federal Register for public comment and for notice that the ICR will be submitted to the OMB. The OMB provides the final determination for issuing or renewing the ICR. OMB may approve the ICR or disapprove the ICR with a request to U.S. EPA for additional information.
There are two types of ICRs; ICRs that are related to regulations and ICRs that are non-regulation based. Most U.S. EPA ICRs that appear in the Federal Register are for a renewal of data collection for an existing regulation. These ICR renewals are required every three (3) years, and the process can take 180 days from the first Federal Register notice and associated 60 day public comment period through the OMB approval and final public notice via the Federal Register.
The cost and burden to the affected community for collecting the data must be determined by U.S. EPA and is carefully reviewed by OEI and the OMB. So if an ICR renewal for a rule that applies to you appears in the Federal Register and your experience with the recordkeeping and reporting suggest that a significant amount of time expended retaining inconsequential records is high relative to the value of the data being tracked, it would be in your best interest to comment on the ICR. A final note about ICR involves some rare instances where an ICR has expired before the new ICR is in place. Enforcement on recordkeeping and reporting violations has been blocked because an ICR was not approved before the existing ICR expired. Thus knowing the status of ICRs for regulations that affect your facility could be worth a little bit of effort, whether that effort involves commenting on the ICR or knowing when an ICR expire.