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Oct. 19, 2021 by Amy Sinden

The Shaky Legal and Policy Foundations of Cost-Benefit Orthodoxy in Environmental Law

This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

In the actual work of crafting the regulatory safeguards that protect our environment and health, cost-benefit analysis has been largely ineffectual and irrelevant. Indeed, its ineffectiveness has been so profound as to prompt even its most ardent practitioners and proponents to question whether it has any impact on agency decisions at all. Meanwhile, it plays at best a minor role in the legal standards that actually govern agency decision-making. Despite all this, a certain cost-benefit orthodoxy has become remarkably entrenched in environmental policy circles. Especially in an era when so many progressive ideas are in ascendance, why does the idea of regulatory review based on CBA, first brought to us half a century ago by the two Ronalds—Ronald Coase and Ronald Reagan—have such staying power?

Decades ago, political scientist Charles Lindblom observed that proponents of what he called “the synoptic ideal”—the idea that we can comprehensively assess the pros and cons of every conceivable alternative and choose the optimum—inevitably talk as though this approach is the only rational decision-making process. That tendency is …

Oct. 14, 2021 by James Goodwin
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

Over the last 40 years, the U.S. regulatory system has played an increasingly influential role in redefining our political and economic relationships in fundamentally neoliberal terms. A key but often overlooked institutional force behind this development is the peculiar form of cost-benefit analysis that now predominates in regulatory practice. Building a new regulatory system befitting our vision of a post-neoliberal America requires a formal rejection of prevailing cost-benefit analysis in favor of a radically different approach—one that invites public participation, permits open and fair contestation of competing values at the heart of policy debates, and recognizes and honors our social interdependencies.

The predominant form of cost-benefit analysis—one embraced by neoliberals—finds its theoretical underpinning in the controversial ideology of welfare economics …

Oct. 11, 2021 by Melissa Lutrell, Jorge Roman-Romero
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is inherently classist, racist, and ableist. Since these are foundational problems with CBA, and are not simply issues with its implementation, they can never be fixed by mere methodological improvements. Instead, the ongoing modernization of centralized regulatory analyses must focus on "moving beyond" CBA, and not on fixing it or improving it. Thus, in implementing President Biden's memorandum on Modernizing Regulatory Review (the Biden Memorandum), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should make explicit that regulatory review no longer requires CBA, even—as will be true in the typical case—when regulatory review does demand economic analysis as part of a holistic, multi-factor regulatory impact analysis.

The Biden memorandum endorses a series of goals that are not premised in the …

Sept. 10, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration is looking to make big regulatory changes, not least regarding climate change. Yet the White House office overseeing regulations is vacant. The obscurely named Office of Regulatory Affairs and Information (OIRA) has to sign off on all significant regulations. Even the dilatory Donald Trump had nominated a permanent administrator by July of his first year. Biden's delay in filling this important office is hard to defend.

The main reason for the delay is probably that Biden doesn't have the OIRA administrator's boss in place, either. Biden's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had to be withdrawn when her Senate support evaporated. That was on March 2, however, and there's still no new OMB nomination six months later. Maybe the reason is an inability to find a candidate who can …

July 6, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The White House is asking for input on how the federal government can advance equity and better support underserved groups. As a policy analyst who has studied the federal regulatory system for more than a dozen years, I have some answers — and I submitted them today. My recommendations focus on the White House rulemaking process and offer the Biden administration a comprehensive blueprint for promoting racial justice and equity through agencies’ regulatory decision-making.

To put it bluntly, the U.S. regulatory system is racist.

Key institutions and procedures throughout the rulemaking process contribute to structural racism in our society, resulting in policies that exacerbate racial injustice and inequity. We can’t have truly equitable regulatory policy unless and until these features of the regulatory system are reformed or eliminated.

To make good on its promise to advance equity, the Biden administration must overhaul two interrelated components of …

June 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Even most lawyers, let alone the rest of the population, are a bit fuzzy on how the regulatory system works. As the Biden administration is gearing up to start a slew of regulatory proceedings, here's what you need to know about the process.

Issuing Regulations

Q: Where do agencies like EPA get the power to create regulations?

A: EPA and other agencies are created by Congress. They also get the power to issue regulations from laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Clean Water Act tells EPA to issue regulations based on the "best available technology" for controlling the discharge of toxic water pollutants.

Q: Who decides whether an agency should start the process to issue a new regulation?

A: Some statutes set deadlines and require agencies to act. In those situations, a court can intervene …

March 23, 2021 by James Goodwin, Sidney Shapiro
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This op-ed originally ran in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

To paraphrase French economist Thomas Piketty, the task of evaluating new regulations is too important to leave to just economists. Yet, since the 1980s, White House-supervised regulatory impact analysis has privileged economic efficiency as the primary and often only legitimate objective of federal regulation. The regulatory reform initiative launched by President Joseph R. Biden on his first day in office creates an opportunity to reorient regulatory analysis in ways that both reformers and the public support.

Legal and policy experts object to hyper-technical regulatory analysis, and new public opinion polling indicates that voters agree.

Far from a monolithic concept, cost-benefit analysis encompasses a wide range of approaches and techniques, all with their own theoretical underpinnings and ethical commitments. Indeed, the current version of cost-benefit analysis is grounded in the conservative discipline of welfare economics and seeks …

March 3, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro
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Amid the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of politics these days, one fact stands out — a large majority of Americans want more regulatory protection in a wide variety of areas, according to a recent poll of likely voters.

The results are consistent with previous polls that indicate that Americans understand the importance of government regulation in protecting them from financial and health risks beyond their control. They also indicate majority support for efforts by the Biden administration to renew government regulation — as well as a stark repudiation of former President Trump’s extreme anti-regulatory agenda.

The poll, conducted in January by Data for Progress and the Center for Progressive Reform, found that a majority of likely voters favor more regulation of drinking water pollution (74 percent); consumer product safety (71percent); privacy data (70 percent); air pollution (68 percent …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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In my last post, I began counting down the top ten most significant developments affecting regulatory policy and public protections from the past year. This post completes the task. The good news is some of these developments offer some hope on realizing the goals of CPR’s Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. Others, however, suggest that the task of realizing those goals will be an arduous one.

  1. Environmental justice takes its rightful place as a top-tier issue. At the beginning of the year, environmental justice rose to unprecedented prominence thanks to advocacy efforts behind the Green New Deal and the introduction of major environmental justice legislation by Reps. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.). The issue took on greater urgency in May, after the alleged murder of George Floyd …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This was the year in which many of our worst fears about the Trump administration came to pass. Racial unrest reached a boiling point. The GOP’s attacks on our democracy leading up to and after the election will take decades to fix. And of course, tens of thousands of lives have been needlessly lost to an unprecedented pandemic.

It was an ugly year. Not surprisingly, most of 2020’s top regulatory policy stories were ugly too. In general, policy developments aligned against the goals of CPR’s new Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. The incoming Biden-Harris administration can put us back on the right track, but they have a lot of work ahead of them.

Here are the first five of this year’s 10 most significant developments affecting …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 19, 2021

The Shaky Legal and Policy Foundations of Cost-Benefit Orthodoxy in Environmental Law

Oct. 14, 2021

A Post-Neoliberal Regulatory Analysis for a Post-Neoliberal World

Oct. 11, 2021

Modernizing Regulatory Review Beyond Cost-Benefit Analysis

Sept. 10, 2021

Vacancy

July 6, 2021

Biden White House Can Make the Regulatory System Anti-Racist. Here's How.

June 25, 2021

The Regulatory Process: FAQs

March 23, 2021

To Democratize Regulation, Reform Regulatory Analysis