New Commentaries from the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center

Latest Research from the GW Regulatory Studies Center

Recent working papers and published articles from Center scholars

Public Comment: EPA’s Proposed Rule: Federal Plan Requirements for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Electric Utility Generating Units

European Power Plant
November 19, 2015
by Brian Mannix, Research Professor

This Public Interest Comment, filed last year in response to EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, addresses the relative merits of a “mass-based” or “rate-based” emissions trading program in state plans required by EPA’s rule. This same question has arisen again in the context of EPA’s development of Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) that might be imposed on noncomplying states. The comment (which has now been filed in the FIP rulemaking) concludes that a rate-based trading program, similar to the EPA’s successful program for trading lead in gasoline in the 1980s, has compelling advantages over a mass-based program.


Identifying Regulations Affecting International Trade and Investment: Better Classification Could Improve Regulatory Cooperation

Identifying Regulations Affecting International Trade and Investment: Better Classification Could Improve Regulatory Cooperation
November 10, 2015
by Daniel R. Pérez

Early notice of upcoming regulations that are likely to affect international trade and investment helps U.S. citizens and companies as well as our trading partners. The U.S. has tasked its regulatory agencies with flagging such rules in the semiannual Unified Agenda before they are issued. We compared the number of rules that agencies flagged as likely to have an international impact from 2008 through 2014 with the number of rules we identified, based on our criteria, that were likely to have such an impact. Agencies are currently identifying less than 30% of these rules.


Learning from Experience: Retrospective Review of Regulations in 2014

Agency use of retrospective review of regulations
November 03, 2015
by Sofie E. Miller, Senior Policy Analyst

Through a series of Executive Orders, President Obama has encouraged federal regulatory agencies to review existing regulations and to “modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned.” Learning from experience is an important part of a healthy regulatory process, so multiple government guidelines instruct agencies to incorporate retrospective review plans into their proposals during the rulemaking process. Our latest research finds that, despite these guidelines, agencies are not planning prospectively for ex post analysis of their rules.


Salience, complexity and state resistance to federal mandates

October 28, 2015
by Steven J. Balla, Scholar; and Christopher J. Deering (in the Journal of Public Policy, Vol. 35, Iss. 3)

Although state resistance to federal mandates is a prevalent characteristic of contemporary American federalism, little is known about the factors that separate resisting states from states that do not oppose federal policy. This article examines state resistance through a framework that classifies public policies by salience and complexity and identifies societal interests and government officials who are hypothesised to influence policy making on issues of varying types. These hypotheses are investigated in the context of state resistance to four federal laws – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, No Child Left Behind Act, Help America Vote Act and REAL ID Act. The results of the statistical analysis demonstrate the centrality of the characteristics of citizens, elected officials and specialised interest groups in conditioning state resistance to federal mandates. These results suggest that state resistance can be characterised as a strategic response to federal mandates that varies systematically across types of public policies.


Public Interest Comment on EPA and NHTSA's Proposed Rule: Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles – Phase 2

Truck fleet
October 02, 2015
by Brian Mannix, Research Professor

Contrary to claims, EPA and NHTSA’s proposed standards to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency for medium and heavy-duty engines and vehicles is not “a win-win-win.” The agencies’ RIA forecasts large benefits, mostly in the form of private fuel savings but, fails to recognize that competitive markets are far better informed, and far better motivated, to pursue these fuel savings efficiently. The net effect will be higher costs, not savings. Other external benefits might be used to justify the standards, but an honest RIA would acknowledge that these come at a price.


A Review of Regulatory Reform Proposals

Dudley testimony
September 17, 2015
by Susan E. Dudley, Director

The Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee held a hearing on Thursday September 16, at which they asked Susan Dudley to provide expert input on six regulatory reform proposals scheduled for markup. Her testimony complimented the Committee on the constructive, bipartisan reforms, which if passed, could bring about real improvements in regulatory procedures and outcomes. She offered detailed comments on each bill, of which three focus on evaluating the effects of existing regulations and modifying them as appropriate, and three focus on enhancing analytical procedures conducted before new regulations are issued.


Regulatory Science and Policy: A Case Study of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards

September 09, 2015
by Susan E. Dudley, Director

Effective environmental policy depends on reliable scientific information and transparent policy choices; it is challenged not only when science is politicized, but also when policy is “scientized.” This paper suggests that current practices scientize policy and threaten not only regulatory outcomes, but the credibility of the scientific process. Using a case study of the procedures by which the Environmental Protection Agency sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act, it illustrates some of the perverse incentives involved in developing regulations, and offers possible mechanisms to improve those incentives and resulting policy.


Whose Benefits Are They, Anyway? Examining the Benefits of Energy Efficiency Rules 2007 - 2014

September 02, 2015
by Sofie E. Miller, Senior Policy Analyst

Over the past decade, regulations setting energy efficiency standards have proliferated. These rules account billions of dollars in annual regulatory benefits, but the Department of Energy relies on private benefits and benefits to residents of other countries to justify the standards, contrary to typical benefit-cost analyses. This paper examines the composition of benefits resulting from DOE’s energy efficiency rules 2007 – 2014, and finds that these rules don’t pass a traditional cost-benefit test when relying on traditional analytical assumptions.


The New European Better Regulation Agenda: Changes and Potential for Improving the U.S. Rulemaking Process

Better Regulation Agenda
August 17, 2015
by Ana Maria Zárate Moreno, Research Assistant

On May 19, 2015, the European Commission published a new agenda to improve the EU's regulatory processes by increasing the scope and quality of regulatory assessments, expanding transparency and consultation, and seeking to work with other European entities. These changes may be useful for other countries in their efforts to improve regulatory governance. Based on the European initiatives, some possible actions for improving the U.S. rulemaking process are: i) increase input from stakeholders on the impacts of existing regulations through a well-established platform that formalizes a constant dialogue between federal government, states, and stakeholders; and ii) provide an online program to comment on the stock of regulations as complement of the consultation process.


The Role of Transparency in Regulatory Governance: Comparing US and EU Regulatory Systems

US and EU flags
August 11, 2015
by Susan E. Dudley and Kai Wegrich

This review of regulatory procedures in the EU and US suggests that each values good regulatory practices, such as transparency, public consultation, and regulatory impact analysis, but emphasizes them to different degrees at different stages in the regulatory process. Particularly for regulations that address human health risks, both jurisdictions should be more transparent regarding the uncertainties surrounding estimates of regulatory outcomes and the effect of key assumptions on those estimates. A transparent process for evaluating regulatory effects ex post could also improve regulatory analysis and outcomes.


Public Comment: NRC's Financial Qualifications for Reactor Licensing

Sequoyah nuclear power plant
July 30, 2015
By Gerald W. Brock, Co-Director

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission published a draft regulatory basis for a proposed rulemaking that would amend the financial qualifications standard for new reactor licensing from the current "reasonable assurance" to the proposed "appears to be financially qualified." However, the proposed standard is unnecessary because there is a market test of financial qualifications that is more accurate than regulatory review. While the proposed new financial qualification standard is better than the current financial qualification standard, simply abolishing the financial qualifications requirement for licensing would be an improvement over the proposed new standard.


Public Comment: EPA's Proposed Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016

EPA flag
July 24, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller, Senior Policy Analyst

The Renewable Fuel Standard program is mandated by Congress to increase the production and use of renewable fuels, such as corn ethanol, in gasoline and diesel. However, the availability of new scientific, technical, and economic information shows that the RFS program does not work as it was intended to, and is likely causing significant environmental harm through increased greenhouse gas emissions and damage to waterbodies and ecosystems. In this proposed rule, EPA appropriately uses its waiver authority to set renewable fuel standards below those prescribed by statute. Given the environmental damage and the large economic impact of the standards, EPA should update its benefits analysis and consider using its waiver authority to further reduce the standards. Responsibility rests with Congress to reevaluate the effects of the statutes it authorized, which are now causing economic and environmental harm.


Can Fiscal Budget Concepts Improve Regulation?

Pages in the federal register graph
July 16, 2015
Susan E. Dudley, Director

Despite efforts to ensure that new regulations provide net benefits to citizens, the accumulation of regulations threatens economic growth and well-being. As a result, the U.S. legislature is exploring the possibility that applying fiscal budgeting concepts to regulation could bring more accountability and transparency to the regulatory process. This paper examines the advantages and challenges of applying regulatory budgeting practices, and draws some preliminary conclusions based on successful experiences in other countries.


Improving Regulatory Accountability: Lessons from the Past and Prospects for the Future

Congress 1941
July 15, 2015
by Susan E. Dudley, Director

This Article examines efforts by the three branches of federal government to oversee regulatory policy and procedures. It begins with a review of efforts over the last century to establish appropriate checks and balances on regulations issued by the executive branch and then evaluates current regulatory reforms that would hold the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch more accountable for regulations and their outcomes.


Notice & Comment: How Agencies Use Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking

Pie chart: ANPRMs by type of rulemaking
June 23, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller & Saayee Arumugam

Agencies already use ANPRMs to gather public input, and have for many years. However, our analysis sought to answer these questions: How frequently do agencies use ANPRMs? Which agencies use ANPRMs most frequently? Do agencies use ANPRMs to solicit public input on minor regulatory issues, or for bigger policy questions? This analysis provides answers to each of these questions for use by policymakers, agencies, and the public alike as we contemplate practical solutions for improving the regulatory process.