CPR Archive for Daniel Farber

Legacy Goods and the Environment

by Daniel Farber | January 28, 2016

The value of some goods like wilderness today depends on their futures.

Normally, economists imagine, equal experiences become less valuable as they recede further into the future.  But some types of goods don’t have that kind of relationship with future experiences.  They can become more valuable as they extend farther into to the future.

Take this blog post, for example.  I’m really happy that you’re reading it today.  But it will be even cooler if someone reads it ten years from now.  And it would be super cool if someone would read it a century from now. It’s also true that some people are more valuable because of their past histories – something owned by your grandparents might mean more to you than an otherwise identical object without that history.  Or both could be true — an heirloom might mean more because it belonged to your grandparents and will someday belong to your grandchildren.

What’s going on here is a bit like a network externality.  A phone is worth more, the more other people get phones.  In the situation I’m discussing, it’s as if a phone became more valuable the more people in the past and the future got phones.

It seems to me that many aspects of the environment have this property.  For instance, one reason one might value wilderness would be that the wilderness experience connects us with much older parts of human history, and one ...

Key Environmental Developments Ahead in 2016

by Daniel Farber | January 04, 2016
Here are seven of the most important developments affecting the environment. 2015 was a big year for agency regulations and international negotiations. In 2016, the main focal points will be the political process and the courts. Here are seven major things to watch for.  The Presidential Election. The election will have huge consequences for the environment. A Republican President is almost sure to try to roll back most of the environmental initiatives of the Obama Administration, undoing all the progress that has been ...

Does the Paris Agreement Open the Door to Geoengineering?

by Daniel Farber | December 15, 2015
If we're serious about keeping warming "well below" 2°C, geoengineering may be necessary. The Paris agreement establishes an aspirational goal of holding climate change to 1.5°C, with a firmer goal of holding the global temperature decrease “well below” 2°C. As a practical matter, the 1.5°C goal almost certainly would require geoengineering, such as injecting aerosols into the stratosphere or solar mirrors. Even getting well below 2°C is likely to require steps of that kind or a technological breakthrough for another ...

Law Schools Doing Good

by Daniel Farber | November 04, 2015
How Law Schools Serve the Public Most people probably think of law schools, when they think of them at all, as places that train future lawyers.  That’s true, and it’s important, but law schools do a lot more.  Faculty scholarship makes a difference — law review articles laid the foundation for many of the ideas now guiding judges (both on the Right and the Left).  But I’d like to focus here on another, more recent activity by law schools — the environmental ...

Addressing Externalities: A Modest Proposal

by Daniel Farber | October 22, 2015
How to make health and safety a personal priority for industry officials. According to economists, firms have little reason to take into account the cost of externalities — that is to say, the harms their activities may impose on others. The traditional solutions are damage remedies or taxes to transfer the financial cost to the industry, or regulation to force industries to limit their harmful activities. Why not try a more direct solution? Why not require owners and managers to ...

Guess Who Benefits from Regulating Power Plants

by Daniel Farber | September 08, 2015
The answer will surprise you. What parts of the country benefit most from the series of new EPA rules addressing pollution from coal-fired power plants?  The answer is not what you think. EPA does a thorough cost-benefit analysis of its regulations but the costs and benefits are aggregated at the national level. In a new paper, David Spence and David Adelman from the University of Texas break down these figures on a regional basis.  What they found may surprise you.  In fact, the areas benefitting ...

Clean Air versus States Rights

by Daniel Farber | June 09, 2015
A sleeper decision by the D.C. Circuit upholds federal air pollution authority. The D.C. Circuit’s decision last week in Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality v. EPA didn’t get a lot of attention, despite having a very significant constitutional ruling.  Since the constitutional discussion doesn’t start until about page seventy, after many pages of scintillating discussion of matters like the reliability of private air pollution monitors and the meaning of the word “nearby”, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the case has ...

The Case Against Sulking

by Daniel Farber | April 07, 2015
States will only lose out if they refuse to cooperate with the Clean Power Plan. Mitch McConnell has urged states to refuse to submit plans if the Clean Power Plan is upheld by the Court.  He has been accused of inciting lawless behavior on the part of state governments.  Let me come to his defense on this.  (How often do I get to do that??) The states are under no legal obligation to submit plans.  The Clean Air Act does not require them to ...

Econ101, Ideological Blinders, and the New Head of CBO

by Daniel Farber | March 09, 2015
There are troubling indications that Keith Hall lets ideology blind him to basic economics. Last week, in a post about the employment effect of regulations, I mentioned briefly that the new Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Keith Hall, had endorsed some questionable views on the subject.  A reader pointed me toward an additional writing that has done a lot to escalate my concerns.  There are disturbing signs about both Hall’s ideological bias and even his grasp of basic economics. This writing was part of an exchange ...

Accounting for Job Loss -- The consequences of doing so may not be what you'd expect

by Daniel Farber | March 02, 2015
The Republicans’ choice for head of the CBO, Keith Hall, spent some time at a libertarian think tank reportedly funded by the Koch brothers, where he wrote about the effect of regulation on employment. Hall argued that regulations cause unemployment (include indirect effects because of price changes), and that the costs of unemployment should be included in regulatory cost-benefit analysis. In principle, it seems right to include the special harms associated with job loss in cost-benefit analysis (not just for regulations but everything else too).  ...

Killer Coal

by Daniel Farber | January 23, 2015
Black lung has been the underlying or contributing cause of death for more than 75,000 coal miners since 1968, according to NIOSH, the federal agency responsible for conducting research on work-related diseases and injuries. Since 1970, the Department of Labor has paid over $44 billion in benefits to miners totally disabled by respiratory diseases (or their survivors). The annual death rate from mining accidents is 20-25 per 100,000, about six times the average industry. If you do the math, that means ...

The Death of Deference?

by Daniel Farber | November 26, 2014
Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert. in several cases to hear the following question: “Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.” The fundamental issue is whether it was unreasonable for EPA to interpret section 112 to preclude consideration of cost at this particular stage of the regulatory process — not only different from what the Court thinks is the best interpretation, but a position ...

Lessons From an Epidemic

by Daniel Farber | October 08, 2014
Ebola’s natural reservoirs are animals, if only because human hosts die to too quickly. Outbreaks tend to occur in locations where changes in landscapes have brought animals and humans into closer contact.  Thus, there is considerable speculation about whether ecological factors might be related to the current outbreak. (See here).  At this point, at least, we don’t really know.  Still, it’s clear that outbreaks of diseases like ebola strengthen the case for forest conservation.  Which is also, obviously good for the environment. ...

A Blow to Public Interest Litigation

by Daniel Farber | September 18, 2014
A Texas judge's award of attorney fees is a threat to all public interest groups, liberal or conservative. A couple of weeks ago, a federal district judge in Texas awarded over $6 million in attorneys’ fees against the Sierra Club.  Sierra Club had survived motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, only to lose at trial. The court awarded fees on the ground that the suit was frivolous. The combination of rulings — denying summary judgment but then calling a lawsuit frivolous ...

FDA Discretion and Animal Antibiotics

by Daniel Farber | August 20, 2014
FDA has stalled for 30 years in regulating antibiotics in animal feed. A court says that's O.K. The FDA seems to be convinced that current use of antibiotics in animal feed is a threat to human health. But the Second Circuit ruled recently in NRDC v. FDA that EPA has no duty to consider banning their use.  That may seem ridiculous, but actually it’s a very close case legally.  The court’s discussion of Massachusetts v. EPA as an administrative law precedent should be especially interesting to environmental ...

Today's Supreme Court Ruling: Three Key Questions

by Daniel Farber | June 23, 2014
Direct implications are limited, but we'll be reading the tea leaves for future implications. Scholars, lawyers, and judges will be spending a lot of time dissecting today’s ruling.   Overall, it’s a bit like yesterday’s World Cup game — EPA didn’t win outright but it didn’t lose either. Here are three key questions with some initial thoughts: What is the direct legal impact of the ruling?  This was really a split decision.  Some sources will escape being covered by EPA’s ...

Does OIRA Live Up to Its Own Standards?

by Daniel Farber | June 11, 2014
OIRA should conduct a cost-benefit analysis of its own activities and explore alternatives to its current oversight methods. A White House office called OIRA polices regulations by other agencies in the executive branch.  OIRA basically performs the role of a traditional regulator – it issues regulations that bind other agencies, and agencies need OIRA approval before they can issue their own regulations.  Essentially, then OIRA regulates agencies like EPA the same way that those agencies regulate industry.  Issuing regulatory mandates and permits ...

The Legal Basis for the 111(d) Rules

by Daniel Farber | June 02, 2014
Megan Herzog has done a great job of explaining the background of the rules and summarizing the proposal in her blog posts.  I just wanted to add a quick note about how EPA has structured its rules in light of possible legal challenges.  The fundamental issue facing EPA is how to define the “best system” for reducing carbon emissions.  Is it limited to technological upgrades at individual emitters?  Or can it be broader, and if so, how broad?  Industry is sure ...

Also from Daniel Farber

Daniel A. Farber is the Sho Sato Professor of Law, Director of the California Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and Chair, Energy & Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley.

Legacy Goods and the Environment

Farber | Jan 28, 2016 | Environmental Policy

Key Environmental Developments Ahead in 2016

Farber | Jan 04, 2016 | Energy

Does the Paris Agreement Open the Door to Geoengineering?

Farber | Dec 15, 2015 | Climate Change

Law Schools Doing Good

Farber | Nov 04, 2015 | Climate Change

Addressing Externalities: A Modest Proposal

Farber | Oct 22, 2015 | Regulatory Policy

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