Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act Information

Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

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Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) — Key Points for Small Business

Central Contact Point

SBREFA requires federal agencies to make currently existing pamphlets, handbooks, and other compliance materials available to small businesses through a central source. At the Department of Energy (DOE), your central contact point is the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).

Compliance Guides for New Regulations

For many new regulations issued after June 28, 1996, SBREFA requires agencies to write compliance guides that explain in plain language what the new regulations require. The guides are available through OSDBU, the Regional Offices, and the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Small Business Development Centers (for the one nearest you, call SBA at (800) 827-5722).

SBA Ombudsman requires enforcement agencies to establish a small business non-retaliation policy. DOE’s non-retaliation is as follows:

In accordance with the provisions of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), the Small Business Administration requires that each Federal agency draft a policy that an agency will not retaliate against small businesses that question or complain about the business practices conducted by said agency. 

If a small business has any questions or lodges a complaint regarding a DOE policy or pursues action against this agency. The DOE will not retaliate against them. 

The SBA has also established a National Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Ombudsman and 10 Regional Small Business Regulatory Fairness Boards, to receive comments from small businesses about federal agency enforcement actions.

The Ombudsman annually evaluates enforcement activities and rates each agency’s responsiveness to small businesses. If a small business wishes to comment on the enforcement actions of DOE, it may call 1-888-REG-FAIR (1-888-734-3247) or write to the Ombudsman at 409 3rd Street, SW, Suite 7125, Washington, DC 20416.

SBA Ombudsman prepares an Annual Report to Congress that evaluates federal agencies. 

Recovering Legal Fees and Expenses

SBREFA expands the ability of small businesses to recover legal costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) by allowing small businesses to recoup legal expenses when the government seeks unreasonably high penalties in certain types of cases.

Obtaining Reductions/Waivers of Penalties

SBREFA requires enforcement agencies to have a program for reductions and waivers of penalties for small businesses under certain circumstances.

Influencing New Regulations

DOE is required to obtain and consider small business input and interests when writing a new regulation that will have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small businesses. Alternatives that would reduce the economic burden on small businesses must be considered.

OSHA must convene a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel to collect advice from small business representatives and consult with the SBA when it is developing such a rule.

Once a new rule is completed, SBREFA requires that it be submitted to Congress; Congress then has the opportunity to vote to disapprove of the new rule.

To view available downloads please click here.

Department of Energy's Non-Retaliation Policy

The Department of Energy is fully committed to fair regulatory enforcement practices, supports the right of the regulated community to raise concerns about regulatory enforcement actions without fear or retaliation, and will investigate any allegations of retaliation and take appropriate corrective action to avert further incidents. The Department of Energy seeks to foster a climate that encourages small business concerns participation in seeking contract opportunities, and to that end, small businesses are free to raise concerns, without fear of retaliation or reprisal, regarding policies and practices related to procurement concerns or doing business with the Department.

The Department will investigate any allegation of retaliation or complaint that is referred to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

For additional information concerning the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), a list of agency contacts may be found on the Small Business Administration’s Office of the National Ombudsman’s (SBA/ONO) website at  Small businesses may choose to contact the SBA/ONO directly by calling 1-888-REG-FAIR (1-888-734-3247), or visiting the Ombudsman’s website.

Energy Efficiency Standards 

The Department of Energy (DOE) establishes energy-efficiency standards for certain appliances and equipment, and currently covers more than 60 different products. Authority to undertake this effort was granted by Congress, and DOE follows a four-phase process when reviewing existing and developing new standards. Each product page provides information on recent updates, current standards and test procedures, waivers, exceptions, and exemptions, statutory authority, and historical information. Energy Conservation Standards