This op-ed was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
The regulatory system, contrary to the claims of its conservative critics, is an indispensable part of the broader civic infrastructure on which our democracy is built. Significantly, the ability to exercise voting rights—the most visible and potent act of civic engagement—necessitates a stronger and more inclusive regulatory system.
Effective civic engagement is a skill that requires practice to develop and maintain, not unlike playing piano or speaking a foreign language. This reality is especially true of voting, which involves more than just turning out for elections. Discerning voters must understand the issues at stake, demand high-quality candidates, and monitor public officials' performance to hold them accountable.
Observers of the United States' constitutional system of governance have long praised the wide variety of social institutions that allow us to hone our civic engagement skills. Nearly 200 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the vast array of civic associations in the United States, famously calling them our "schools of democracy."
Today, the regulatory system stands as one of the most important of these Tocquevillian schools of democracy, although few might think of it in these terms …
“Well behaved women seldom make history.”
This well-worn adage is no doubt true, but so too is its opposite. History is written for a purpose and, all too often, that purpose is to justify the status quo as a historical inevitability. Those women and men who defy the expectations of their time, who fight too often and too well against the injustices of the day, are mysteriously forgotten by those who write our history. In this way, women’s contributions to and leadership of the organized labor movement, though lionized within the movement itself, have largely escaped public consciousness.
Indeed, women led the battle for industrial democracy — even before they won the right to vote.
Perhaps the best known labor leader is Mother Jones. Born Mary Harris, Jones was an Irish immigrant who lost her husband and all four of her children to yellow fever and didn …
Women’s History Month isn’t just a time to recognize achievements made throughout the decades to advance women’s rights and demand equity. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate women making history today, the ones in our unwritten history books.
For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, if confirmed, will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Judge Jackson, a former clerk for retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, graduated from Harvard Law School and served as a federal district and appellate court judge in Washington, D.C. Before serving as a judge, she worked for two years as a federal public defender, a vitally important role and an experience that few judges share. Indeed, she would be the first Supreme Court justice to ever have held such a position.
Shalanda Baker, a Member Scholar on leave …
In describing cost-benefit analysis to students, I've often told them that the "cost" side of the equation is pretty simple. And it does seem simple: just get some engineers to figure out how industry can comply and run some spreadsheets of the costs. But this seemingly simple calculation turns out to be riddled with uncertainties, particularly when you're talking about regulating the energy industry. Those uncertainties need more attention in designing regulations.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confronted some of these issues recently in its reevaluation of a regulation limiting mercury emissions from coal power plants. (You might wonder why EPA was taking this look backwards; the reason was basically that the U.S. Supreme Court told them to do so.) In 2011, EPA had estimated that the compliance cost would work out to …
In the wake of recent high-profile electric power failures, numerous policymakers and politicians have asserted an inherent tension between the aims of clean energy and grid reliability. One Texas regulator declared that the best response to the hundreds of deaths caused by last year’s blackouts was for the state never to build another wind turbine again—even though the failure to weatherize natural gas infrastructure has been diagnosed as the blackouts’ primary cause.
At the same time, large utilities such as Duke Energy have proposed major new investments in natural gas generation, citing the need for reliability.
These calls for new fossil fuel investments in the name of reliability are a dangerous …
This is the first post in a series on climate justice in California.
State officials in California are leading an extensive multisector planning effort to develop the 2022 Scoping Plan, the third update to California’s climate mitigation strategy. The new plan will outline a pathway for statewide action toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions (i.e., carbon neutrality) no later than 2045.
California first established its distinctive planning approach for developing coordinated emissions reduction measures that also advance the state’s other climate and environmental justice goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 (AB32).
AB32 also established the first statewide emissions target limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and charged the California Air Resources Board (CARB) with developing and adopting a new scoping plan every five years. The first scoping plan was developed in …
On March 11, there were two seismic shocks in the world of gas pipeline regulation. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has spent years resisting pressure to change the way it licenses new gas pipelines. The whole point of a natural gas pipeline is to deliver the gas to users who will burn it, thereby releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. FERC has steadfastly refused to take those emissions into account. The D.C. Circuit held that position illegal in an opinion released last Friday. That same day, by coincidence, FERC published guidelines in the Federal Register explaining how it proposed to consider those emissions.
The D.C. Circuit opinion followed up on previous rulings but left no room for doubt about the court's position. The case involved a minor pipeline upgrade by the Tennessee Natural …
This op-ed was originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
When it comes to historically marginalized groups, an “out of sight and out of mind” approach has too often infected agency policymaking. Agencies have responded with outreach to marginalized communities, but regulatory policymaking is hardly inclusive.
Last January, President Biden required the government to increase engagement “with community-based organizations and civil rights organizations,” and the Administrative Conference of the United States responded with a multiday forum on underserved communities and the regulatory process.
Addressing the lack of participation by marginalized communities in regulatory decision-making is crucial, but there is another fundamental issue. The input of marginalized communities will not matter if agencies ignore or devalue it because these insights are not expressed using the standard narratives of policymaking.
When the first person of color on the nation’s highest court retired three decades ago, the nation’s first female justice paid tribute to the invaluable experience he brought to what had been an exclusively white male institution.
“Although all of us come to the court with our own personal histories and experiences, Justice [Thurgood] Marshall brought a special perspective,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in 1992 in the Stanford Law Review.
“At oral arguments and conference meetings, in opinions and dissents, Justice Marshall imparted not only his legal acumen but also his life experiences, constantly pushing and prodding us to respond not only to the persuasiveness of legal argument but also to the power of moral truth.”
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, the dean of Boston University’s law school, lifts up O’Connor’s insight in a recent letter in support of another legal pioneer: Judge …
Arguments and judicial reasoning in administrative law cases usually focus on the case at hand. Indeed, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) commands that narrow focus. The APA does not give the courts any role in shaping the laws governing administrative agencies, for that is what Congress does. Instead, it gives the courts a modest, albeit difficult responsibility: They may determine whether a particular agency action is arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law. Therefore, parties challenging an agency rule they disapprove of generally argue that the agency has violated some restraint stated in the statute or exercised its discretion in an arbitrary way.
But in the U.S. Supreme Court case heard last week about the scope of EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (West Virginia v. EPA), coal companies relied heavily on a "parade of horribles" argument — a listing of bad things that …