air-pollution-power-lines-wide.jpg
Jan. 8, 2021 by Amy Sinden, Richard Parker

Andrew Wheeler's Trojan Horse for Clean Air Act Regulation

This post was originally published by the Yale Journal on Regulation's Notice & Comment blog. Reprinted with permission.

T’was the season of gift-giving and on December 9, outgoing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler delivered a parting gift for his successor in the form of a new regulation: Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process.

The new Rule is offered as a simple housekeeping measure designed “to ensure consistent, high-quality analyses [and to] codif[y] best practices for benefit-cost analysis in rulemaking.” Some observers find it relatively harmless; but others are not so sanguine. We view it as a sort of Trojan Horse—seemingly innocuous on its face, but harboring content that will hamper, and may undermine, EPA’s efforts to confront the climate crisis and protect the safety of the air we breathe. Here are a few reasons we came to that view.

The problems begin with the word “codify.” For many years, EPA’s Cost-Benefit Analyses (CBAs) have been governed by non-binding guidelines. Readers of this blog will appreciate that guidelines can be adjusted to fit the circumstances of individual rules, and adapted over time as scientific understanding of …

Nov. 18, 2020 by James Goodwin, Amy Sinden
environmental-justice-clean-water-flickr-cc.jpg

After taking their oaths of office in January, newly minted President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will face a number of daunting challenges: the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn; structural racial and ethnic injustice; widening economic inequality; inadequate access to affordable health care; and climate change. And Congress, facing the prospect of divided control, is unlikely to respond with robust legislative solutions that the American people expect and deserve.

The good news is that Biden and Harris will be able to meet these challenges head on by revitalizing governance and making effective use of the federal regulatory system. Better still, they can do so in a way that delivers justice and equity for all Americans.

Using the regulatory system as a policy tool is not easy under ideal circumstances, let alone during difficult times like these. For the last four years, the Trump administration has …

June 1, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, David Flores, Matthew Freeman, James Goodwin, Brian Gumm, Catherine Jones, Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt, Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick, Robert Glicksman, Alice Kaswan, Thomas McGarity, Joel Mintz, Sidney Shapiro, Amy Sinden
george-floyd-murder-protest-dc-01-wide.jpg

Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.

CPR Member Scholars and staff are dedicated to listening to and working alongside Black communities and non-Black people of color to call out racism and injustice and demand immediate and long-lasting change. Racism and bigotry cannot continue in the United States if our nation is to live up to its creed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

CPR's vision is thriving communities and a resilient planet. That ideal animates all of our work, but systemic sources of inequality and injustice stand as massive barriers to the realization …

Sept. 16, 2019 by Amy Sinden
WHouseGreySkies.jpg

Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The Trump EPA last month proposed a new plan to remove oil and gas developers’ responsibility for detecting and fixing methane leaks in their wells, pipelines and storage operations. This proposal to axe the Obama-era methane rule is notable for two reasons. First, it is a huge step backward in the race to stabilize the climate, just at the moment scientists warn we need to move forward with unprecedented speed. Second, it’s the latest in a growing list of Trump rollbacks opposed by the very industries they’re purportedly intended to help.

The Obama EPA put the methane rule in place for good reason: Methane is a powerful driver of climate disruption. While it doesn’t linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, for the 10 or 20 years it …

July 26, 2019 by Amy Sinden
epa-hq-cc-nrdc-wide.jpg

This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect.

Everyone in communications knows how to bury a news story: release it late on a Friday. So it was with the White House’s annual report on federal regulations, released months behind schedule on a Friday in February. As it has for many years, the report pegged the benefits of federal regulation in the hundreds of billions of dollars, swamping the calculated costs of compliance by at least 2 to 1 and possibly as much as 12 to 1—awkward results for the Trump communications team, to say the least. How to square these numbers with the “job-killing regulations” trope was a real head-scratcher.

It might seem like good news that regulatory safeguards actually do save a lot of lives, not to mention preventing a lot of diseases, accidents, and other bad things. But these big numbers on …

Jan. 30, 2019 by Amy Sinden
us-map-globe-wide.jpg

This post was originally published by JURIST.

The news on the climate crisis has been bad lately and getting worse. In the face of President Trump's continued denial and his administration's diligent efforts to roll back every shred of progress made by the Obama administration and to prop up an ailing coal industry, the warnings from the scientific community have only become more dire.

In November, 13 of Trump's own agencies released a 1,600-page report confirming that climate change is already impacting communities across the country — bringing major storms, droughts, disease, water shortages, and more. That came on the heels of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warning that climate change is occurring more rapidly than previously thought. The report predicted catastrophic consequences if we don't make "rapid," "far-reaching," and "unprecedented" "transitions in energy, land, infrastructure, and industrial systems" …

July 25, 2018 by Amy Sinden
dusky-gopher-frog-wide.jpg

This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation process goes as quickly and affirmingly as his supporters hope, one of the cases he'll hear on his first day on the bench will invite him to consider an imponderable question: Whether it's possible to put a dollar value on an endangered species.

Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will raise an important and long-controversial aspect of environmental law: the use of cost-benefit analysis in agency decision-making. The Court may well be able to decide this case without diving into the most contentious aspects of the long-running cost-benefit debate. Still, it could provide an opportunity for a glimpse into how a new justice would approach a set of issues that, while seemingly technical, are central to deciding the stringency of …

June 15, 2017 by Amy Sinden
white_house_2_wide.jpg

I don't know what executive order the Chamber of Commerce is defending in the amicus brief it filed Monday in Public Citizen v. Trump. But it doesn't appear to be the one at issue in that lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that Trump's "one-in, two-out" executive order is unconstitutional. That's the order he issued in January requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every one they issue. It requires agencies to make sure that the costs imposed by any new regulation are entirely offset by the costs of the two repealed regulations. And, yes, it's just as absurd as it appears at first glance – akin to a business deciding to close two old stores for every new one it opens in order to offset the costs of the new store, entirely ignoring the revenue side of the ledger. 

Perhaps the inherent absurdity is …

Jan. 31, 2017 by Amy Sinden
Taj_Mahal_Atlantic_City_New_Jersey_wide.jpg

Remember how Donald Trump bragged he was going to run the country like a business?

Imagine if before Trump could open a new casino, he was bound by a rule to close two existing casinos, and the costs of the new casino couldn't exceed the cost savings from no longer operating the old ones. Would this make sense as a business strategy? Of course not.

Unless, of course, you were secretly trying to sabotage the business and run it into the ground (and maybe drown it in a bathtub).

Funny then, that Trump would impose that rule on the agencies now working for him. But that's just what he's done. Under Trump's latest executive order (signed Monday, January 30), before a federal agency can issue a new regulation, the agency first has to rescind two pre-existing regulations. And the cost savings from scrapping …

Sept. 26, 2016 by Amy Sinden
SupCtColumns_wide.jpg

Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Amy Sinden.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Michigan v. EPA last term, a number of commentators have revived talk of something called the "Cost Benefit State." It is supposed to be a good thing, although it makes some of us shudder. The phrase was originally coined by Cass Sunstein in a 2002 book by that name. It describes a supposedly utopian government in which agencies and courts apply to all regulatory decision-making a formal cost-benefit analysis (CBA) grounded in welfare economics.

Sunstein and other eager proponents of CBA have seized on language in the Michigan case that, in the course of striking down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mercury rule, gestured toward the existence of a presumption favoring the consideration of costs in regulatory decision-making. Sunstein heralded the opinion …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 8, 2021

Andrew Wheeler's Trojan Horse for Clean Air Act Regulation

Nov. 18, 2020

We Need to Uproot Roadblocks to Just, Equitable Safeguards. Here Are 10 Things the Biden-Harris Team Can Do to Make that Happen

June 1, 2020

CPR Will Stand with Those Who Cannot Breathe

Sept. 16, 2019

Overshoot: Trump's Deregulatory Zeal Goes Beyond Even Where Industry Asks Him to Go

July 26, 2019

The Cost-Benefit Boomerang

Jan. 30, 2019

Cap-and-Trade Could Fill Gaps in Governor Wolf's Climate Change Executive Order

July 25, 2018

Imagining a Justice Kavanaugh: For One Endangered Frog, Might Justice Scalia Have Been a Kinder, Gentler Jurist?