What's New from the GW Regulatory Studies Center

10/7/19 - Are Agencies Responsive To Mass Comment Campaigns?, by Aryamala Prasad

10/2/19 - ‘Big Bad Trusts’ Are a Progressive Myth, by Jerry Ellig & Phil Gramm, Wall Street Journal

10/2/19 - Lost in the Flood?: The Efficacy of Mass Comment Campaigns in Agency Rulemaking, by Steven J. Balla, Alexander R. Beck, Elizabeth Meehan, and Aryamala Prasad

10/2/19 - Bigger Stones for David: Tools to Give OIRA More Leverage in Regulatory Review, by Jerry Ellig

9/27/19 - Where's the Spam? Interest Groups and Mass Comment Campaigns in Agency Rulemaking, by Steven J. Balla, Alexander R. Beck, William C. Cubbison, & Aryamala Prasad

9/17/19 - The Capitalism Paradox, by Susan E. Dudley, Forbes

9/17/19 - Dynamic Benefit-Cost Analysis for Uncertain Futures, by Susan E. Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian F. Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan

9/16/19 - An OIRA Rule on Rules, by Bridget C.E. Dooling

9/12/19 - David Versus Godzilla: Bigger Stones, by Jerry Ellig & Richard Williams

9/12/19 - Codifying the Cost-Benefit State, by Brian F. Mannix & Bridget C.E. Dooling

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New Commentaries from the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center

Research

Recent working papers and published articles from Center scholars
Chart from report on mass comment campaigns

Lost in the Flood?: The Efficacy of Mass Comment Campaigns in Agency Rulemaking

October 02, 2019

By: Steven J. Balla, Alexander R. Beck, Elizabeth Meehan, and Aryamala Prasad
By assembling information about more than 1,000 mass comment campaigns that occurred during Environmental Protection Agency rulemakings between 2012 and 2016, the analysis addresses the manner in which the agency responds to campaigns and the association between campaigns and the substance of rules.

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Where's the Spam? Interest Groups and Mass Comment Campaigns in Agency Rulemaking

September 27, 2019

By: Steven J. Balla, Alexander R. Beck, William C. Cubbison, & Aryamala Prasad
Through an analysis of more than one thousand mass comment campaigns submitted on Environmental Protection Agency rulemakings between 2012 and 2016, this article's findings suggest that mass comment campaigns are not a phenomenon meriting unique explanation, but rather occur in a manner similar to lobbying in other policymaking venues, such as lawmaking in Congress. The research also confirms expectations that campaigns submitted by regulated entities (i.e., industries) are more substantive than campaigns generated by beneficiaries of stringent regulations (e.g., environmental advocacy groups).

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Dynamic Benefit-Cost Analysis for Uncertain Futures

September 17, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian F. Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan
Policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don't lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as "uncertain futures."

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Muddling-Through and Deep Learning for Managing Large-Scale Uncertain Risks

September 17, 2019

By: Tony Cox
Building on Charles Lindblom's research on the limits of rational-comprehensive decisionmaking, Tony Cox provides insights on how machine learning can help individuals and institutions make better informed decisions - improving society's experience of 'muddling through' policymaking under uncertainty.

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From Football to Oil Rigs: Risk Assessment for Combined Cyber and Physical Attacks

September 17, 2019

By: Fred S. Roberts
Reviewing risk assessment to scenarios of terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure including U.S. sporting venues and the international maritime transportation system. Fred Roberts notes that these assessments traditionally treat physical and cyber attacks separately and are inappropriate for considering the risk of combined attacks that include both a physical and cyber component. He proposes a framework informed by expert judgement to determine whether an attacker would likely prefer executing a combined or traditional physical attack on a given target.

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Nuclear War as a Global Catastrophic Risk

September 17, 2019

By: James Scouras
James Scouras identifies nuclear war as a global catastrophic risk and suggests that multidisciplinary studies that combine insights from "historical case studies, expert elicitation, probabilistic risk assessment, complex systems theory, and other disciplines" can address many of the shortcomings of single analytic approaches. He suggests that experts can address current gaps in their assessments of the consequences of nuclear weapons by further investigating understudied phenomena (e.g., the effects of electromagnetic pulses, nuclear winter, the prolonged effects of radiation).

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Responsible Precautions for Uncertain Environmental Risks

September 17, 2019

By: W. Kip Viscusi, Joel Huber, & Jason Bell
Elaborating on best practices for decisionmakers facing low probability, high consequence hazards. Viscusi, Huber, and Bell point out that these uncertain risks create incentives to pursue suboptimal policy approaches that potentially over commit public resources to less consequential hazards.

Photo of Jerry Ellig and Richard Williams

David Versus Godzilla: Bigger Stones

September 12, 2019

By: Jerry Ellig & Richard Williams
For nearly four decades, U.S. presidents have issued executive orders requiring agencies to conduct comprehensive regulatory impact analysis (RIA) for significant regulations to ensure that regulatory decisions solve social problems in a cost-beneficial manner. Yet experience demonstrates that agency RIAs often fail to live up to the standards enunciated in executive orders and OMB guidance. We suggest four managerial changes that could increase OIRA’s leverage.

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Codifying the Cost-Benefit State

September 12, 2019

By: Brian F. Mannix & Bridget C.E. Dooling
In this article we focus on the executive’s authority to write a cross-government “rule-on-rules” to govern regulatory analysis, including benefit-cost analysis and the courts’ authority to enforce such a rule.

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OIRA Past & Future

September 12, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley
While some of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affair’s functions are statutorily granted, others—notably those related to regulatory policy—derive from presidential executive orders. This paper reflects on OIRA's evolution over the almost 40 years since the Paperwork Reduction Act created it in 1980 to understand what has made it so durable.

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Clean Power v. Clean Energy

July 31, 2019

By: Brian F. Mannix
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued three final regulatory actions governing greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. These rules will face new legal challenges based on both the economic analysis and the statutory authority for EPA’s actions. Mannix briefly reviews some of the major issues likely to be in contention.

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Testimony: Agricultural Research and 2018 Farm Bill Implementation

July 31, 2019

By: Joseph J. Cordes
On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released what it describes as a “Cost-Benefit Analysis” of the proposed relocation of NIFA and ERS from Washington DC to Kansas City. Based on its analysis the USDA concludes that relocation of these two agencies would save $19 million per year which could be reinvested in other USDA programs. This written testimony accesses the agency's benefit cost analysis under Circular A-94 standards.

Image of Susan Dudley and Zhoudan Xie

Nudging the Nudger: Toward a Choice Architecture for Regulators

July 16, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley & Zhoudan Xie
Recognizing that “bounded rationality” also occurs in the regulatory process and building on public choice insights that focus on how institutional incentives affect behavior, this article explores the interaction between the institutions in which regulators operate and their cognitive biases. It attempts to understand the extent to which the “choice architecture” regulators face reinforces or counteracts predictable biases. Just as behavioral insights can help design a choice architecture that frames individual decisions in ways that encourage welfare-enhancing choices, designing the institutions that counter regulators’ cognitive errors could lead to more public-welfare-enhancing policies.

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IRS's Safe Harbor Notice on State and Local Tax Credits

July 10, 2019

By: Jerry Ellig
The IRS seeks comment on a guidance notice that allows taxpayers to count contributions for which they received a state or local tax credit as a payment of state or local taxes, subject to the $10,000 SALT cap. This notice corrects a problem created by a regulation issued on June 11, 2019, which prohibits taxpayers from taking a charitable deduction if they received a state or local tax credit in exchange for the contribution. Without this notice, the regulation is overly broad, because it takes away the deduction for taxpayers below the SALT cap even though they are not a cause of the tax avoidance problem the regulation seeks to solve.

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Privacy Research: The Need for Evidence in the Design of U.S. Privacy Policy

July 03, 2019

By: Daniel R. Pérez
This regulatory policy insight details the importance of using evidence to inform the development of U.S. privacy policy and identifies the kinds of evidence that would be particularly useful for policymakers to consider.