Regulatory Review in Anti-Regulatory Times: Congress

by Daniel Farber | January 17, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet.

In theory, cost-benefit analysis should be just as relevant when the government is deregulating as when it is imposing new regulations. But things don't seem to work that way. This is the second of two blog posts analyzing how costs and benefits figured in decisions during the past two years of unified GOP control of the federal government (read the first post here). Today, I focus on Congress.

For the first time in history, Congress made aggressive use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back federal regulations. It had only been used once before, but in 2017, Congress overturned fifteen government regulations in short order. Liberals decried these regulatory rollbacks as a mass attack on the environment and the public interest more generally. Conservatives applauded Congress for cutting the heavy cost of government regulation and boosting the economy. It appears, however, that neither perspective was right. Congress's actions do not seem to fit any coherent regulatory philosophy, good or bad. In a new paper, I analyze the role of costs and benefits in the decision to overturn regulations. The paper examines all the regulations for which CRA resolutions were introduced in Congress, comparing those regulations that were ultimately overturned with those that were not.

Neither costs nor benefits seemed to have had any significant relationship with a regulation's fate. From all the talk about reducing economic burdens ...

Wheeler Hearing Provides Opportunity to Learn More about 'Benefits-Busting' Rule

by James Goodwin | January 15, 2019
During his tenure, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt launched multiple assaults on environmental and public health safeguards. His attacks on clean air standards and water quality regulations made so little sense in our reality that he went to the absurd and extreme lengths of creating an alternative reality to make them look legitimate. That alternative reality is rendered in the "benefits-busting" rule, which would systematically distort the analyses EPA economists conduct to assess the economic impacts of ...

Using Emergency Powers to Fight Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | January 14, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Republicans are apparently worried that if Trump could use emergency powers by declaring border security a national emergency, the next president could do the same thing for climate change. There's no doubt that this would be far more legitimate than Trump's wall effort. Border crossings are much lower than they were ten years ago; he has said in the recent past that his prior efforts have vastly improved border security. In contrast, the Pentagon has classified ...

How Trump Officials Abuse Cost-Benefit Analysis to Attack Regulations

by Daniel Farber | January 09, 2019
This op-ed was orignally published in the Washington Monthly. In December of 2017, Donald Trump gathered the press for a variation on a familiar activity from his real estate mogul days. Stretched between a tower of paper taller than himself, representing all current federal regulations, and a small stack labeled "1960," was a thick piece of red ribbon – red tape, if you will. The president promised that "we're going to get back below that 1960s level." With his daughter ...

The Thin Gray Line

by Daniel Farber | January 08, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. "Bureaucrat" is just another name for public servant. It has been said that a thin blue line of police protects us from the worst elements of society. But it is a thin gray line of underpaid, overworked, anonymous bureaucrats who protect society against more insidious risks – risks ranging from nuclear contamination to climate change to unsafe food. Due to Trump's government shutdown, many of these people are currently not being paid. Yet without the professionals ...

The Year Ahead

by Daniel Farber | December 31, 2018
A version of this post was originally published on Legal Planet. What are the key things to watch for in 2019 in the environmental area? Regulations. According to the Trump administration’s schedule, three big rules should be issued in March: repeal of the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan, and the freeze on fuel efficiency standards. This seems very ambitious to me, especially for the last two where there are major technical ...

Seven Bright Spots of 2018

by Daniel Farber | December 31, 2018
A version of this post was originally published on Legal Planet. Yes, it was a grim year in many ways. But there actually were some bright spots. Here are just the high points. Scott Pruitt. Pruitt resigned under fire. While his successor may be more successful in some ways, the fact remains that Pruitt was a disgrace. We're better off without him. Trump was apparently unfazed by his incompetence and aversion to hard work. But the succession of scandals and ...

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories to Look Out for in 2019 (IMHO)

by James Goodwin | December 31, 2018
As I documented in my most recent post, 2018 was an active year for regulatory policy, bringing several notable controversies, milestones, and developments. For those who follow this area, 2019 promises to be just as lively and momentous. Indeed, it appears that the dynamics that spurred much of the regulatory policy-related action in 2018 – namely, the high priority that the Trump administration has placed on corrupting our system of regulatory safeguards, and the accompanying political polarization around the issue ...

CPR's 2018 Op-Eds

by Matthew Freeman | December 27, 2018
As we prepare to tie a bow on 2018, it’s worth looking back at the various op-eds CPR’s Member Scholars and staff penned over the course of the year. You can find and read every single one of them on our op-ed page. But here are some highlights for quick(er) perusal: In February, CPR’s Founding President, Tom McGarity had a piece in The American Prospect, reviewing the damage done by the GOP congressional majority by means of the Congressional Review ...

2019 Wish List for Workers’ Health and Safety

by Katie Tracy | December 26, 2018
As 2018 ends and we take stock of the developments in workers’ rights over the first half of the Trump administration, there is little forward progress to report. This administration, acting with minimal to no congressional oversight, has consistently neglected to protect America’s workers, instead rolling back and delaying numerous Obama-era regulations and safeguards, ignoring emerging hazards from climate change and new technologies, and restricting traditional inspection and enforcement in favor of self-reporting and compliance assistance.  Instead of focusing on ...

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories of 2018 (IMHO)

by James Goodwin | December 20, 2018
While regulatory policy developments might not lead evening news broadcasts or dominate newspaper headlines, they can have an enormous impact on our day-to-day lives. Regulatory policy has been a particular hotbed of activity during the Trump administration, which swept into office determined to undermine or corrupt the institutions responsible for keeping Americans and their environment secure against unacceptable risks of harm. So, it is no surprise that 2018 was another busy year in regulatory policy. Here are 10 of the ...

Planning for the Public Health Effects of Climate Migration

by Maxine A Burkett | December 17, 2018
This post was originally published by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat. In Alaska's arctic communities, Inuit contemplating the need to relocate have reported that the loss of sea ice would make them feel like they are lost or going crazy. Zika and other vector-borne diseases have been a concern primarily for people in the southeastern United States. Recent research on the long-range internal migration of people from the coasts to the interior suggests a broader national concern regarding "climate ...

By Fixing Congress, the Planned H.R. 1 Could Strengthen Public Protections, Too

by James Goodwin | December 13, 2018
Not long after their party regained control of the lower chamber in the midterm elections, House Democratic leaders unveiled their signature legislative action for the next Congress – a package of reform measures aimed at tackling some of the worst ethics abuses involving the Trump administration's top officials and members of Congress. Symbolically assigned the designation of H.R. 1 to underscore its status as the top legislative priority, the bill would do more than just restore the integrity of our ...

Chesapeake Bay Year in Review: A Beneath-the-Headlines Look at Some of the Biggest Restoration and Clean-up Issues

by Evan Isaacson | December 12, 2018
It's that point in the year when we take a step back and reflect on the past 12 months. This was a big year for those concerned about restoring the Chesapeake Bay, with plenty of feel-good stories about various species and ecosystems rebounding more quickly than expected. There were also more than a few headlines about record-setting rainfalls washing trash down the rivers, over dams, and coating the Bay's shores. But I am going to look beneath the headlines at ...

The New WOTUS Proposed Rule and the Myths of Clean Water Act Federalism

by Dave Owen | December 11, 2018
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. This morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA released a proposed new rule that would change the agencies' shared definition of "waters of the United States." That phrase defines the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  The proposed rule would narrow the scope of federal jurisdiction, primarily in two ways.  First, it would eliminate jurisdiction for "ephemeral" streams – that is, streams where water flows only during ...

Two Years and Counting: Looking Forward

by Daniel Farber | December 10, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In terms of regulatory policy, the second half of Trump's term is shaping up to look a lot like Obama's final two years in office. Congress won't be doing much to advance Trump's environment and energy agenda, as was the case with Obama. So, like Obama, Trump's focus will be on administrative action, particularly regulatory initiatives (or deregulatory ones, in Trump's case). The big question is how these efforts will fare in court. I want to ...

Two Years and Counting: A Historical Perspective

by Daniel Farber | December 06, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. This is the second of three posts assessing the first two years of the Trump administration. You can read the first post here. We all seem to be subscribed to the "All Trump News, All the Time" newsfeed. It may be helpful to step back a bit and compare Trump with his last Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. How do the two stack up? Bush and Trump were very different in character and style, but their ...

Two Years and Counting: Trump at Mid-Term

by Daniel Farber | December 03, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In September 2017 – that seems so long ago! – Eric Biber and I released a report assessing the state of play in environmental issues 200 days into the Trump administration, based on an earlier series of blog posts. As we end Trump's second year, it's time to bring that assessment up to date. This is the first of three posts examining what Trump has done (and hasn't done) in terms of environment and energy. For ...

Regulatory Review in Anti-Regulatory Times: Congress

Farber | Jan 17, 2019 | Regulatory Policy

Using Emergency Powers to Fight Climate Change

Farber | Jan 14, 2019 | Climate Change

The Thin Gray Line

Farber | Jan 08, 2019 | Good Government
Recommended Resources:
Regulatory Policy
Assault on Our Safeguards

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