'Snail Mail' Slows at Five Government Agencies

Several government agencies slow or stop mail service as a result of the anthrax scare.

Planning on mailing a letter to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the Mining Safety and Health Administration or to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao? You might want to reconsider.

Anthrax concerns have caused the Department of Labor, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Transportation to encourage Internet use instead of snail mail.

The FCC has set up elaborate procedures to receive hand-delivered documents, including placing compliance documents and regulatory filings "in a receptacle that will be placed outside" the agency''s building.

"As the Commission continues to balance its efforts to be accessible to its customers with the need for heightened security measures, the Commission encourages its customers to make full use of the Commission''s electronic filing system," the agency said.

FERC said it has not received U.S. Postal Service mail since Oct. 24, and "does not know when postal service will resume." Although it added it continues to receive privately-delivered and messengered mail, FERC "continues to encourage electronic filing of qualified documents, such as interventions, protests and comments."

The Department of the Interior issued a statement saying that "Due to disruptions to the mail service in the Washington, D.C. area, you may want to consider alternative means of communicating with the Department, e.g., fax, e-mail, Federal Express, etc. There may be a considerable delay in our receipt of mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service."

The Department of Transportation apologized for the inconvenience to regulatory filers of having to x-ray and screen all mail delivered to the agency. With respect to time-sensitive packages and rulemaking deadlines, DOT said it would consider "later-filed comments" but that filers "are encouraged to use the Electronic Submission System" on its Web page (www.dot.gov). Earlier last month, the Federal Aviation Administration had asked airlines to supply the agency with operational, traffic, and financial information on an ongoing basis delivered to the agency via e-mail.

The Department of Labor said it "will provide a posting on our Web site (www.dol.gov) as soon as the department''s mailroom resumes operations."

"This is the new business reality of dealing with the Federal Government during terrorist scares," said NetCompliance CEO Krish Krishnan. NetCompliance is an Internet provider of "paperless" compliance solutions.

"Companies today should expect to face an even greater amount of rules and regulations regarding compliance in light of the terrorist attacks and future threats," said Krishnan. "With the regulatory landscape changing daily, companies should prepare to use the Web and ''paperless'' compliance as the medium of choice to collect, store and maintain regulatory documents required by Federal regulators."

by Sandy Smith

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