Emergency Rulemaking: Procedures, Justifications, and Review

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of emergency rulemaking procedures, justifications, and review mechanisms, enabling government agencies to swiftly implement regulations in urgent situations while ensuring transparency and legal compliance.

Emergency rulemaking is a critical process that allows government agencies to swiftly implement regulations in response to urgent situations. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the procedures, justifications, and review mechanisms associated with emergency rulemaking. The information is synthesized from reliable sources, including government websites and legal statutes, to ensure accuracy and relevance.


Emergency rulemaking is a legal mechanism that enables regulatory agencies to bypass the usual procedural requirements for rulemaking in situations that demand immediate action. This process is essential for addressing emergencies that pose significant risks to public health, safety, or welfare. This guide explores the intricacies of emergency rulemaking, including its procedures, justifications, and the review process.

Procedures for Emergency Rulemaking

Federal Procedures


At the federal level, emergency rulemaking is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA typically requires agencies to follow a notice-and-comment process before finalizing regulations. However, in emergencies, agencies can invoke the "good cause" exception to expedite rulemaking.

Good Cause Exception

The "good cause" exception allows agencies to forego the notice-and-comment process if they find that it is impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. Agencies must provide a written justification for invoking this exception, which is subject to judicial review.

Source: The Good Cause Exception to Notice and Comment Rulemaking

Federal Register

Emergency rules must be published in the Federal Register, along with the agency's justification for bypassing the standard rulemaking process. This ensures transparency and provides the public with information about the new regulations.

Source: A Guide to the Rulemaking Process - Federal Register

State Procedures


In California, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) oversees the emergency rulemaking process. Agencies must submit a request for emergency rulemaking to the OAL, including a statement of emergency and the proposed regulation.

Source: About the Emergency Rulemaking Process | OAL


Wisconsin's emergency rulemaking process requires agencies to provide a statement of the scope of the proposed rule and an analysis of the emergency. The rule is then reviewed by the Legislative Council and the Governor before it can take effect.

Source: Emergency Rulemaking Process - Wisconsin Legislative Documents


In Oklahoma, agencies must file an emergency rule with the Secretary of State and provide a justification for the emergency. The rule is effective immediately upon filing but must be reviewed by the Governor and the Legislature.

Source: Oklahoma's Emergency Rulemaking Process

Common Elements

Despite variations in procedures across jurisdictions, several common elements characterize emergency rulemaking:

  1. Justification: Agencies must provide a clear and compelling justification for the emergency rule.
  2. Transparency: Emergency rules and their justifications must be published to inform the public.
  3. Review: Emergency rules are subject to review by executive or legislative bodies to ensure they are warranted and appropriate.

Justifications for Emergency Rulemaking

Public Health and Safety

One of the primary justifications for emergency rulemaking is the protection of public health and safety. Situations such as pandemics, natural disasters, and environmental hazards often necessitate immediate regulatory action to mitigate risks.

Example: COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous agencies invoked emergency rulemaking to implement measures such as mask mandates, business closures, and vaccination requirements. These actions were deemed necessary to curb the spread of the virus and protect public health.

Economic Stability

Economic crises can also justify emergency rulemaking. Agencies may need to implement regulations to stabilize financial markets, protect consumers, or provide economic relief.

Example: Financial Crisis

In response to the 2008 financial crisis, regulatory agencies implemented emergency rules to address the collapse of major financial institutions and restore confidence in the financial system.

National Security

National security threats, such as terrorist attacks or cyber threats, may require immediate regulatory action to protect the nation. Emergency rulemaking allows agencies to quickly implement measures to enhance security and prevent further threats.

Example: Post-9/11 Regulations

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, agencies used emergency rulemaking to enhance airport security, tighten immigration controls, and improve intelligence-sharing mechanisms.

Environmental Protection

Environmental emergencies, such as oil spills or chemical leaks, can pose significant risks to ecosystems and public health. Emergency rulemaking enables agencies to swiftly address these threats and implement measures to prevent further damage.

Example: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, regulatory agencies implemented emergency rules to improve offshore drilling safety and prevent future spills.

Review of Emergency Rules

Judicial Review

Emergency rules are subject to judicial review to ensure they comply with legal standards and do not exceed the agency's authority. Courts can invalidate emergency rules if they find that the agency did not adequately justify the emergency or if the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

Case Law

Courts have established precedents for reviewing emergency rules. For example, in American Federation of Government Employees v. Block, the court invalidated an emergency rule because the agency failed to provide sufficient evidence of an emergency.

Legislative Review

Legislative bodies often have the authority to review and approve or disapprove emergency rules. This provides a check on executive power and ensures that emergency rules are necessary and appropriate.

Example: Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the Legislature reviews emergency rules and can suspend or modify them if they find that the rule is not justified or exceeds the agency's authority.

Executive Review

Executive review involves oversight by the Governor or other executive officials. This review ensures that emergency rules align with the administration's policies and priorities.

Example: Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the Governor reviews emergency rules and can approve or disapprove them based on their necessity and alignment with state policies.


Emergency rulemaking is a vital tool for regulatory agencies to address urgent situations that require immediate action. By understanding the procedures, justifications, and review mechanisms associated with emergency rulemaking, stakeholders can ensure that these rules are implemented effectively and appropriately. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of emergency rulemaking, drawing on reliable sources and legal statutes to offer accurate and relevant information.


  1. About the Emergency Rulemaking Process | OAL
  2. A Guide to the Rulemaking Process - Federal Register
  3. Emergency Rulemaking Process - Wisconsin Legislative Documents
  4. Oklahoma's Emergency Rulemaking Process
  5. The Good Cause Exception to Notice and Comment Rulemaking

By adhering to the principles and procedures outlined in this guide, agencies can effectively utilize emergency rulemaking to protect public health, safety, and welfare in times of crisis.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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