The Unpopularity of Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Rena Steinzor | September 14, 2012

If cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is really part of the furniture, you wouldn’t think recently departed OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein would need to dedicate a column to convincing us it’s so. But there it is, and though Sunstein is now but a private citizen like the rest of us, the claims merit a response.

We’re told “cost-benefit analysis has become part of the informal constitution of the U.S. regulatory state,” but that’s some odd constitution – not approved by any legislative body (and often, in fact, at odds with the dictates of the U.S. Congress), followed very selectively, and adjusted quickly at the whims of pressure from powerful industries. Billed as a non-ideological analytical tool, CBA today is in fact the opposite: questionable value judgments masked as technical calculations, all used as window-dressing to block rules that benefit the public but upset powerful industries.

Big industries and conservative think tanks spent years pushing CBA. It never made sense for the public. Cost-benefit says, for example, that a polluter can’t foul a waterway and kill a couple people along the way, unless it makes a whole lot of money doing it. It pretended that the costs and benefits are being put on the same one actor (society). In reality, one party (the polluter) had already put costs on the other (the public). Regulations seek to address that, but CBA starts with the premise that the polluters have the right ...

Keeping the Independent Agencies Independent

by Emily Hammond | September 13, 2012
The proposed Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act, S. 3468, is a troubling idea. As Rena Steinzor explained here when the bill was introduced, it would authorize the President to bring independent agencies under the purview of OIRA.  This proposal is worrisome given the persistent flaws inherent in OIRA’s cost-benefit approach; extending the reach of a poorly functioning process is hard to justify.  But even more problematic is where S. 3468 treads:  the domain of independent agencies.  This development calls for ...

Bill Clinton: After Oklahoma City Bombing, I Promised Myself I Would Never Bash Government Bureaucrats

by Ben Somberg | September 12, 2012
Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning for President Obama in Florida on Tuesday, the 9/11 anniversary, offered a passionate defense of government employees, the AP noted. I was curious about the whole quote, so I watched and wrote it out (via C-SPAN, at 34:55): On this day, of all days, we should know that there are good and noble people who work for the government. I remember when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred – which, before 9/11, was the biggest terrorist ...

Everywhere, All the Time: Why the U.S. Should Ratify 3 International Agreements on Persistent Organic Pollutants

by Mary Jane Angelo | September 07, 2012
a(broad) perspective Today’s post is the seventh in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties.  Each month, this series will discuss one of these treaties. Previous posts are here. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are toxic substances that remain in the environment for long periods of time. They travel long distances via the wind and water and bio-accumulate in the food chain. POPs have been found ...

Romney Falsely Claims Health Benefits of Utility MACT Are Due to Bankrupting Coal Companies -- Not Pollution Reduction Equipment

by Ben Somberg | September 06, 2012
Mitt Romney added a new twist Tuesday to false right-wing claims about the EPA’s regulation limiting mercury and other pollutants from coal power plants.  EPA estimated that the “utility MACT” will have annual monetized benefits of $37-90 billion and costs of $9.6 billion. A critique we’ve heard over and over again from the industry and its supporters goes something like this: “But only $6 million of those benefits come from reducing mercury pollution, the top target of the rule!” It’s sort of ...

TSCA Reform and the Presidential Election

by Noah M Sachs | September 06, 2012
When Barack Obama took office, reform of U.S. chemical regulation appeared to be an area of some bipartisan agreement, especially when compared to climate change, where it was clear a contentious fight would loom on Capitol Hill.  Prominent Members of Congress had called for reform of the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson soon laid out the Administration’s key principles for TSCA reform, and the largest chemical industry trade association acknowledged that TSCA needed ...

The Republican Platform’s Plan to Eviscerate Environmental Protection

by Daniel Farber | September 05, 2012
Ben Somberg posted here recently about the Republican platform and the environment. He noted that the platform uses a discredited estimate of regulatory costs, calls for making environmental regulations into guidance documents for industry, and proposes a moratorium on new regulations for the indefinite future. Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. If you can think of an anti-environmental measure proposed by any Republican since Reagan took office, there’s a good chance you’ll find it tucked away somewhere in this ...

Regulation as a Dynamic Macroeconomic Enterprise

by David Driesen | August 30, 2012
Reposted from RegBlog. Traditionally, the field of law and economics has treated government regulation as if it were a mere transaction. This microeconomic approach to law assumes that government regulators should aim to make their decisions efficient by seeking to equate costs and benefits at the margin. As I argue in a new book, The Economic Dynamics of Law, the microeconomic model of government regulation misconceives the essence of regulation. Government regulation produces not an instantaneous transaction, but a set of ...

Monsoon Madness

by Robert Verchick | August 28, 2012
NEW DELHI — Here’s what monsoon season looks like in India. This summer, the northern states have been lashed with rain. In the northeastern state of Assam, July rains swamped thousands of homes, killing 65 residents. Floods and mudslides in northeast India sent nearly 6 million people heading for the hills in search of temporary housing (a tarp, a corrugated roof) and government aid (when they can get it). In New Delhi, the monsoon hasn’t caused anything nearly as traumatic. ...

Draft Republican Platform Cites Debunked Regulatory Costs Study, Suggests Rules be Only a 'Helpful Guide'

by Ben Somberg | August 27, 2012
A draft of the Republican party platform, posted by Politico on Friday afternoon, reveals that the party has incorporated some of the more absurd claims and proposals on regulations pushed by House Republicans and some more radical trade organizations.  The draft claims regulations cost $1.75 trillion each year – that’s from a discredited study sponsored by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. It turned out that 70 percent of that figure came from a regression analysis based on opinion ...

New Briefing Paper: States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards

by Wayland Radin | August 24, 2012
Today CPR releases a new briefing paper explaining how states can spearhead improving energy efficiency standards for home appliances. The paper, States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards, draws on ideas discussed in Alexandra B. Klass’s article State Standards for Nationwide Products Revisited: Federalism, Green Building Codes, and Appliance Efficiency Standards. I co-authored today’s paper with CPR Member Scholars Klass and Lesley McAllister. Traditionally a strongly bipartisan issue, support for energy efficiency has been eroded by ...

The Romney-Ryan Energy Plan: Back to States' Rights

by Joseph Tomain | August 23, 2012
Based on what the Romney-Ryan team has said so far on energy, I expected their energy plan today would be something like the National Energy Policy of 2001, delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney four months after George W. Bush’s inauguration.  I thought that their energy plan would simply be a retread of old thinking, much like their education policies.  But today’s plan goes to a whole new level. The 2001 plan, famously developed behind closed doors, predicted a 30% ...

Can Clean Energy Campaigns Stop Climate Change?

by Frank Ackerman | August 23, 2012
Cross-posted from Triple Crisis. Can we protect the earth’s climate without talking about it – by pursuing more popular policy goals such as cheap, clean energy, which also happen to reduce carbon emissions? It doesn’t make sense for the long run, and won’t carry us through the necessary decades of technological change and redirected investment. But in the current context of climate policy fatigue, it may be the least-bad short-run strategy available. You may have lost interest in climate change, ...

DC Circuit's Cross-State Decision: A Nearly Inescapable Straitjacket for EPA

by Thomas McGarity | August 22, 2012
Yesterday afternoon, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited decision on the validity of EPA’s “Cross-State” rule governing interstate transport of pollution.  The EPA has been trying for more than two decades to come up with a solution to the vexing interstate transport problem, but every attempt has failed. The court has now vacated EPA’s most recent (and most ambitious) attempt to protect the residents of “downwind” states (primarily in New England and the mid-Atlantic) from two pollutants ...

Energy Policy and the 2012 Presidential Campaign

by Joseph Tomain | August 21, 2012
Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee reported out a bill that would extend production tax credits for the wind industry, in addition to providing other tax benefits for the construction of new energy-efficient homes, energy efficient appliances, and biofuels.  These are all positive efforts that serve as investments in the necessary transition to a clean energy future.  Yet meanwhile, the Presidential campaign rhetoric on this issue, and on energy policy more broadly,  is as predictable as it is disappointing. ...

New CPR Paper Examines Potential for Nutrient Trading in the Chesapeake Bay to Disproportionately Impact Poor and Minority Communities

by Nicholas Vidargas | August 16, 2012
Around the country, a disproportionate number of facilities and operations that discharge sewage, process hazardous waste, and emit toxic air pollution are located in areas with high poverty rates or large minority populations.  Environmental regulation that has reduced overall pollution has often failed to do so equitably, leaving (or in some cases even increasing) environmental risks in certain neighborhoods.  These communities suffer from environmental harms in far greater numbers than the general population as dirty air, polluted water, and contaminated ...

Obama Campaign Inches Closer to Asserting that Coal Does Not Kill People

by Ben Somberg | August 15, 2012
Last week, President Obama’s campaign earned green criticism for airing a radio ad in Ohio that portrayed the President as pro-coal, and Mitt Romney as anti-coal. The ad asserted that Obama has been good for the coal industry, and then said: And Mitt Romney? He’s attacking the president’s record on coal. But here’s what Romney said in 2003, at a press conference in front of a coal plant: “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And ...

Governor Romney's Illegal Proposal for REINS-Lite -- Presidents Don't Get to Use Executive Orders to Rewrite Statutes

by Richard Murphy | August 07, 2012
Governor Romney claims that burdensome regulations are an immense but hidden tax holding back the American economy. As proof for this proposition, he cites the study on regulatory costs sponsored by the Small Business Administration – a study that’s been debunked by a CPR white paper, the Congressional Research Service, and others. Romney lays out some solutions to this supposed problem in Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth, issued in September of last year.  One of these ideas is ...

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

Freeman | Dec 28, 2017 | Regulatory Policy

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

Farber | Dec 27, 2017 | Energy

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

Freeman | Dec 21, 2017 | Good Government

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