Hybrid Rulemaking: Combining Formal and Informal Elements

Explore the concept, legal framework, procedures, advantages, and challenges of hybrid rulemaking, which combines formal and informal elements to create efficient and inclusive regulations.

Hybrid rulemaking is a process that integrates elements of both formal and informal rulemaking procedures. This approach is used by various administrative agencies to create regulations that are both efficient and inclusive. This guide will explore the concept of hybrid rulemaking, its legal framework, procedures, advantages, and challenges.

Introduction to Rulemaking

Definition of Rulemaking

Rulemaking is the process by which federal agencies create new regulations. These regulations have the force of law and are essential for implementing and enforcing statutory mandates. Rulemaking can be broadly categorized into formal and informal procedures.

Formal Rulemaking

Formal rulemaking is a process that involves a trial-like hearing where evidence is presented, and witnesses can be cross-examined. This procedure is governed by sections 556 and 557 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (5 U.S.C. §§ 556-557). Formal rulemaking is less common due to its complexity and resource-intensive nature.

Informal Rulemaking

Informal rulemaking, also known as "notice-and-comment" rulemaking, is the most common procedure used by federal agencies. It involves publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register, allowing the public to comment on the proposal, and then issuing a final rule. This process is governed by section 553 of the APA (5 U.S.C. § 553).

Hybrid Rulemaking

Definition and Purpose

Hybrid rulemaking combines elements of both formal and informal rulemaking. It aims to incorporate the thoroughness of formal procedures with the efficiency of informal processes. This approach is often used when agencies need to balance the need for detailed fact-finding with the desire for a more streamlined process.

Hybrid rulemaking is not explicitly defined in the APA but has evolved through agency practices and judicial interpretations. Agencies may adopt hybrid procedures through their own regulations or as directed by specific statutory mandates.

Key Elements

  1. Notice and Comment: Like informal rulemaking, hybrid rulemaking includes a notice-and-comment period where the public can provide input on the proposed rule.
  2. Public Hearings: Hybrid rulemaking may involve public hearings where stakeholders can present evidence and arguments.
  3. Ex Parte Communications: Agencies may allow or restrict ex parte communications (communications with decision-makers outside the formal record) to ensure transparency and fairness.

Procedures in Hybrid Rulemaking

Initiation of Rulemaking

The process begins with the agency identifying the need for a new regulation or an amendment to an existing one. This can be prompted by statutory requirements, executive orders, or agency initiatives.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

The agency publishes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. The NPRM includes the text of the proposed rule, a statement of the rule's purpose, and an invitation for public comments.

Public Comment Period

The public is given a specified period (usually 30 to 60 days) to submit comments on the proposed rule. Comments can be submitted by individuals, organizations, and other stakeholders.

Public Hearings

In hybrid rulemaking, the agency may hold public hearings to gather additional input. These hearings provide a platform for stakeholders to present evidence, make arguments, and respond to questions from agency officials.

Review of Comments and Evidence

The agency reviews all comments and evidence submitted during the public comment period and hearings. This review process is critical for ensuring that the final rule is well-informed and balanced.

Issuance of Final Rule

After considering the public input, the agency issues a final rule. The final rule is published in the Federal Register along with a statement of basis and purpose, which explains the rationale behind the rule and addresses significant comments received.

Judicial Review

The final rule may be subject to judicial review if stakeholders believe that the agency did not follow proper procedures or that the rule is arbitrary and capricious. Courts will review the rulemaking record to determine whether the agency's actions were reasonable and supported by evidence.

Advantages of Hybrid Rulemaking

Enhanced Public Participation

Hybrid rulemaking allows for greater public participation by combining written comments with oral presentations at public hearings. This ensures that a diverse range of perspectives is considered in the rulemaking process.

Improved Fact-Finding

The inclusion of public hearings and the opportunity to present evidence enhances the fact-finding process. This leads to more informed and effective regulations.


Hybrid rulemaking provides agencies with the flexibility to tailor the rulemaking process to the specific needs of each regulation. This can result in more efficient and effective rulemaking.


By allowing for public hearings and restricting ex parte communications, hybrid rulemaking promotes transparency and accountability in the regulatory process.

Challenges of Hybrid Rulemaking

Complexity and Resource Intensity

Hybrid rulemaking can be more complex and resource-intensive than informal rulemaking. The need for public hearings and the review of extensive evidence can increase the time and cost of the rulemaking process.

The lack of a clear statutory framework for hybrid rulemaking can lead to legal uncertainty. Agencies must carefully design their procedures to ensure compliance with the APA and other relevant laws.

Potential for Delay

The additional steps involved in hybrid rulemaking can lead to delays in the issuance of final rules. This can be particularly challenging for agencies facing tight deadlines or urgent regulatory needs.

Case Studies

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Hybrid Rulemaking Procedures

The FTC has utilized hybrid rulemaking procedures to develop regulations that require detailed fact-finding and extensive public input. For example, the FTC's rulemaking on telemarketing sales involved public hearings and the submission of extensive evidence from stakeholders.

Source: Hybrid Rulemaking Procedures of the Federal Trade Commission

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hybrid Rulemaking

The EPA has employed hybrid rulemaking for regulations that require complex scientific and technical analysis. Public hearings and expert testimony are often integral parts of the EPA's hybrid rulemaking process.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hybrid Rulemaking

OSHA has used hybrid rulemaking to develop workplace safety standards. The inclusion of public hearings allows for input from workers, employers, and safety experts, leading to more comprehensive and effective regulations.

Administrative Procedure Act (APA)

The APA provides the foundational framework for federal rulemaking. While the APA does not explicitly address hybrid rulemaking, its principles of transparency, public participation, and reasoned decision-making are central to hybrid procedures.

Source: Administrative Procedure Act - ACUS Wiki

Executive Orders

Various executive orders have emphasized the importance of public participation and transparency in rulemaking. For example, Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to involve the public in the regulatory process and to consider the costs and benefits of proposed regulations.

Judicial Precedents

Court decisions have shaped the development of hybrid rulemaking by interpreting the requirements of the APA and other relevant statutes. Judicial review ensures that agencies adhere to proper procedures and that their regulations are reasonable and supported by evidence.


Hybrid rulemaking represents a valuable approach for developing regulations that are both thorough and efficient. By combining elements of formal and informal rulemaking, agencies can enhance public participation, improve fact-finding, and create more effective regulations. However, the complexity and resource intensity of hybrid rulemaking present challenges that agencies must carefully manage. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, hybrid rulemaking will remain an important tool for ensuring that federal regulations are well-informed, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the public.


  1. Hybrid Rulemaking Procedures of the Federal Trade Commission
  2. Administrative Procedure Act - ACUS Wiki
  3. Ex Parte Communications - Federal Register
  4. United States Government Rulemaking - USTR
  5. Additional Federal Authority Could Enhance Consumer Protection - GAO
About the author
Counsel Stack

Counsel Stack

Helpful legal information and resources

Counsel Stack Learn

Free and helpful legal information

Counsel Stack Learn

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Counsel Stack Learn.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.