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Oct. 2, 2013 by Amy Sinden

Executive Order 12866's Cost-Benefit Test is still with us and I Can Hear Ben Franklin Rolling Over in his Grave

It was 20 years ago this week that President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12866.   That was a watershed of sorts, because it marked the adoption by a Democratic administration of a key aspect of President Reagan’s anti-regulatory agenda -- the requirement that all major federal regulations undergo cost-benefit analysis.  This was not a move that pleased Clinton’s liberal base, since cost-benefit analysis was widely understood to be a tool favored by industry for weakening and delaying regulation.  But, nonetheless, Clinton signed 12866 in 1993, and it’s been with us ever since.

Maybe the staying power of cost-benefit analysis has partly to do with the superficial appeal of the basic idea.  “After all,” says the Chamber of Commerce, “it’s just basic rationality and common sense! Why would you want a rule that causes more harm than good?”  And then come the inevitable appeals to Ben Franklin, who apparently said something once about writing down pros and cons on a sheet of paper.   So if you’re against cost-benefit analysis you’re basically against Ben Franklin, which means you might as well say you hate your mother and never want another slice of apple pie.  Perhaps it’s …

Oct. 2, 2013 by Thomas McGarity
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The origins of Executive Order 12866 go all the way back to the Nixon and Ford Administrations. 

Soon after the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air and Water Acts, affected industries began to complain bitterly about the burdens the new wave of public interest statutes imposed on them. 

The business community was also chaffing under the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that federal agencies prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) for major federal actions that significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Although the EIS requirement only applied to federal agencies, it was applicable when a company needed a permit to build a nuclear power plant, drill on federal lands, and many other business related activities.

The business community observed the potential for EIS requirements to bog down agencies in a great deal of paperwork prior to taking action and …

Oct. 1, 2013 by William Buzbee
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On September 17th, 2013, US EPA released a massive 331 page draft report distilling peer reviewed science regarding “connectivity” of various sorts of American water bodies with larger bodies of waters, such as rivers and lakes.   It also sent to the White House for review a draft proposed rule about how it and the Army Corps of Engineers would determine what sorts of waters would count as “waters of the United States” subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Simultaneously, EPA (perhaps at the request of the White House) withdrew a draft 2011 “guidance” document regarding what “waters” could be protected; it had been in limbo for many months before the White House regulatory “czar,” the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). So far, no one outside of the executive branch has seen the new proposed rule, and the science report is just …

Oct. 1, 2013 by Sidney Shapiro
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Call it buyer’s remorse. The Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is publicly—albeit meekly—tiptoeing away from a now-infamous report that it commissioned, in which economists Nicole Crain and Mark Crain purported to find that federal regulations cost the economy $1.75 trillion in 2008. After being roundly criticized by CPR, the Congressional Research Service, and others, SBA’s Office of Advocacy now explains, referring apparently to the $1.75 trillion figure that “the findings of the study have been taken out of context and certain theoretical estimates of costs have been presented publicly as verifiable facts.” While this admission is welcome, it does not go nearly far enough in light of the antiregulatory crusade this misleading, taxpayer-supported report fueled.

Soon after the Crain and Crain report was released in 2010, CPR published a White Paper that demonstrated the unreliability and implausibility …

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