Web interface for viewing and commenting on proposed changes to federal regulations
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EPA eManifest/eRegs Notice and Comment Pilot

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Glue project which combines regulations-site, regulations-core and styles/templates for EPA's eManifest proposal, packaged as a cloud.gov app.

Local Setup

This application requires Python 2.7, 3.3, 3.4, or 3.5 (we test against 3.4). Install a version (if you haven’t already), set up a virtualenv for this project and activate it, and then clone this repository. Throughout these docs, we’ll assume you are running in a *nix environment (Linux, BSD, OS X, etc.); Windows instructions would be similar.

Next, we need to install all of the appropriate requirements (including the other components of eRegs). We’ll assume you have pip, Node.JS, and npm installed.

npm install -g grunt-cli bower
pip install -r requirements.txt

Then initialize the database (SQLite by default; see Production) and build the frontend:

python manage.py migrate --fake-initial
python manage.py compile_frontend

If you know that the required npm libraries are installed and up to date, you can pass the --no-install flag to reduce front-end compilation time:

python manage.py compile_frontend --no-install

Then select one of the two setup options in the Data section. Both options will give you read access to the tool. See the Write Access section for more. After that, you can run a development server locally via

python manage.py runserver


For an instance of this pilot to display notice data, it needs to have access to said data. There are two basic schemes to set this up – you can either point your checkout to existing parsed data (ideal for folks only working on the front-end or who want to see a UI quickly), or you can populate your database by parsing them yourself.

Point to Existing Data

In this scenario, we just need to configure the UI to point to the live API:

echo "API_BASE = 'https://epa-notice.usa.gov/api/'" >> local_settings.py

As present, all of the data is behind a Basic Auth wall. You can find the relevant username and password from cloud.gov:

cf target -o eregsnc -s prod
cf env eregs-web | grep HTTP_AUTH_USER
cf env eregs-web | grep HTTP_AUTH_PASSWORD

Then add that info to your local_settings.py:

echo "API_BASE = 'https://[AUTH_USER]:[AUTH_PASS]@epa-notice.usa.gov/api/'" >> local_settings.py


To parse the relevant data, you will need to also install the parsing library.

pip install git+https://github.com/eregs/regulations-parser.git

Then, you will want to start your local server and send it the parsed data. These steps will take several minutes. You can find the contents of "epa-rule.xml" in the shared Google Drive (it is sensitive).

python manage.py runserver &    # start the server as a background process
eregs proposal_pipeline /path/to/epa-rule.xml http://localhost:8000/api --only-latest

Then navigate to http://localhost:8000

Editable Libraries

Though this repository contains all of the pilot-specific code, you will most likely want to extend functionality in the base libraries as well. To do this, fork and check out the appropriate library (regulations-site, regulations-core, regulations-parser) into a separate directory, then install it via

pip install -e /path/to/that/checkout

This will tell Python to use your local version of that library rather than the upstream version. Although modifying Python will trigger the manage.py command to restart, template changes will not. Modifying LESS or JS will also require re-running compile_frontend.

Fixing Errors

If you pulled down the latest code changes, ran the server locally, and something didn’t build correctly (you got an error message instead of seeing eRegs), try running standard updates:

Run pip install -r requirements.txt to pull in the latest dependencies. Note that this resets state from the Editable Libraries technique above.

If working with the parser, do eregs clear.

Or if working with notice-and-comment, do python manage.py compile_frontend.

And then try running the server again.

Write Access

To test attachment uploads and comment previews locally, set the ATTACHMENT_BUCKET, ATTACHMENT_ACCESS_KEY_ID, and ATTACHMENT_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY variables in local_settings.py, or the corresponding environment variables. To permit cross-origin requests, run python manage.py setup_cors.

To test PDF exports locally, install wkhtmltox. On Linux, install using python manage.py fetch_wkhtmltox. Otherwise, follow the install instructions, and set WKHTMLTOPDF_PATH to the path to the wkhtmltopdf binary.

If you need to submit a comment, you will need to have a separate worker process, Redis, (see architecture descriptions below) and regulations.gov credentials. Notably, the relevant settings are REGS_GOV_API_URL, REGS_GOV_API_KEY, REGS_GOV_API_LOOKUP_URL, and COMMENT_DOCUMENT_ID. You can start the worker process by running:

celery worker --app=notice_and_comment --loglevel=DEBUG


For the time being, this application, which cobbles together regulations-core and regulations-site, makes HTTP calls to itself. The server therefore needs to know which port it is set up to listen on.

We default to 8000, as that’s the standard for django’s runserver, but if you need to run on a different port, use:

python manage.py runserver 1234

You will also have to either export an environmental variable or create a local_settings.py file as follows:

export PORT=1234


echo "API_BASE = 'http://localhost:1234/api/'" >> local_settings.py

Production Setup

The pilot is currently deployed on cloud.gov, a PaaS which abstracts away many of the annoying components of maintenance. As a result, this documentation (and the production configuration files) are largely geared towards hosting in this environment. See Non-Cloud.gov for other environments.

Library Architecture

Diagram, described below

This repository is a cloud.gov app which stitches together two large Django libraries with cloud.gov datastores and some pilot-specific styles and templates. The first library, regulations-core, defines an API for reading and writing regulation and associated data. This pilot mounts this application at the /api endpoint (details about the “write” API will be discussed later). The second library, regulations-site, defines the UI. When rendering templates, regulations-site will first look in notice-and-comment to see if the templates have been overridden. These views pull their data from the API; this means that this application makes HTTP calls to itself to retrieve data (when it’s not already cached).

Network Architecture

Diagram, described below

There are two running applications, eregs-web, which handles web requests, querying the appropriate data store, and eregs-worker, which generates PDFs and submits data to regulations.gov asynchronously. They share access to a Postgres database (eregsnc-psql) for most data, an ElasticSearch index (eregsnc-search) for searching the preamble, a Redis queue (eregsnc-redis) for sourcing asynchronous data, and S3 (eregsnc-s3) for storing attachments and processed files. We also use a "user-provided" cloud.gov service for storing credential information (eregsnc-creds).

Diagram, described below

The user's browser communicates with eregs-web and s3 (the latter via pre-generated urls which allow limited upload and read capabilities). eregs-web communicates indirectly with eregs-worker via their shared Redis queue. eregs-worker indirectly sends data to the user's browser by publishing it via s3.

Service Construction

Services are bound to applications in the manifest files. To create the necessary services:

cf create-service elasticsearch-swarm-1.7.1 1x eregsnc-search
cf create-service rds shared-psql eregsnc-psql
cf create-service redis28-swarm standard eregsnc-redis
cf create-service s3 basic eregsnc-s3

Our cloud.gov stack should have a user-provided service named eregsnc-creds including the following credentials:

  • HTTP_AUTH_USER - at least 32 characters long
  • HTTP_AUTH_PASSWORD - at least 32 characters long
  • REGS_GOV_API_KEY - for communicating with api.data.gov
  • REGS_GOV_API_LOOKUP_URL - should end with /v3/lookup
  • REGS_GOV_API_URL - should end with /v3/comment.json

To create this service:

cf cups eregsnc-creds -p '{"HTTP_AUTH_USER": "...", "HTTP_AUTH_PASSWORD": ...}'

To update, substitute cf uups for cf cups.

Updating Data

Diagram, described below

When there is new data available (e.g. due to modifications in the parser, new Federal Register notices, etc.), that data must be sent to the /api endpoint before it will be visible to users. However, we don’t want to allow the general public to modify the regulatory data, so we need to authenticate. Currently, this is implemented via HTTP Basic Auth and a very long user name and password (effectively creating an API key). See the HTTP_AUTH_USER and HTTP_AUTH_PASSWORD credentials in cloud.gov for more.

Currently, sending data looks something like this (from regulations-parser)

eregs proposal_pipeline /path/to/epa-rule.xml https://{HTTP_AUTH_USER}:{HTTP_AUTH_PASSWORD}@{LIVE_OR_DEMO_HOSTNAME}/api --only-latest
# To break the above up into multiple steps (can be useful for saving time:)
# eregs clear   # removes all local data
# eregs proposal_pipeline /path/to/epa-rule.xml output-dir --only-latest  # write to disk

This updates the data, but does not update the search index and will not clear various caches. It’s generally best to cf restage the application at this point, which clears the caches and rebuilds the search index. Note that this will also pull down the latest versions of the libraries (see the next section); as a result it’s generally best to do a full deploy after updating data.

Deploying Code

If the code within notice-and-comment, regulations-core, or regulations-site has been updated, you will want to deploy the updated code to cloud.gov. At the moment, we build all of the front-end code locally, shipping the compiled CSS/JS when deploying. This means we’ll need to update our libraries, build the new front end, and push the result.

To run this all (including a zero-downtime push):

pip install -r requirements.txt   # updates the -core/-site repositories
python manage.py compile_frontend   # builds the frontend

go get github.com/concourse/autopilot   # zero-downtime plugin
cf install-plugin $GOPATH/bin/autopilot

export CF_USERNAME="My Username"
export CF_PASSWORD="My cloud.gov password"

./deploy.sh [prod|dev]  # select space

Confusingly, although the front-end compilation step occurs locally, all other library linking (in particular to regulations-site and regulations-core) takes place within cloud.gov. In other words, the setup process for cloud.gov will pull in the latest from regulations-site and regulations-core, regardless of what you have locally and regardless of what you’ve built the front-end against. Be sure to always update your local libraries (via pip) before building and pushing.

Read Authentication

The environment variable, WHOLE_SITE_AUTH, will throw up a BASIC auth wall across the entire site using Django middleware. For simplicity, this will reuse the existing HTTP_AUTH_USER and HTTP_AUTH_PASSWORD used by the write API.


TODO; see manifest files, the cloud.gov documentation and https://atf-eregs.readthedocs.io/en/latest/production_setup.html#non-cloud-gov

Visual regression tests

Visual regression tests can be run via BackstopJS. If not already installed, install BackstopJS via npm:

npm install backstopjs

There is already a backstop.json configuration file in the root of this repo that defines various scenarios for screenshots reference and testing. There is also a backstop_scripts directory that holds CasperJS scripts to define dynamic action states like writing and review comments that can't be directly accessed via a unique URL.

Reference set capture

Before visual regression testing can begin, reference screenshots need to be captured. A reference set can be captured by this command in the node_modules/backstopjs/ directory:

npm run reference

After the reference set capture is finished, then tests can be run against the reference set. Currently in backstop.json there are reference capture scenarios for:

  • N&C Homepage
  • Preamble Section I
  • Write mode on Section I
  • Review your full comment with a blank Section I comment

in screen sizes for phone, tablet and desktop.

Running tests

Tests must be run in the node_modules/backstopjs/ directory with this command:

npm run test

Viewing the report

Timestamped directories of tests will be created in notice-and-comment/backstop_data/bitmaps_test/ folder. After the tests run, the browser will open a BackstopJS report but may not show any passing or failing tests. Upon command line prompt you might have to additionally run:

npm run openReport

for the visual diffs to show up in the BackstopJS browser report.

More documentation

More detailed documentation about BackstopJS can be found on the github repo or the css-tricks tutorial.