What's New from the GW Regulatory Studies Center

12/11/19 - Upcoming CRA Deadline has Implications for Regulatory Oversight by Congress, by Daniel R. Pérez

12/3/19 - Designing a Choice Architecture for Regulators, by Susan E. Dudley & Zhoudan Xie

12/2/19 - STB's Railroad Revenue Adequacy, by Jerry Ellig

11/22/19 - Regulatory Impact Analysis and Litigation Risk, by Christopher Carrigan, Jerry Ellig, & Zhoudan Xie

11/20/19 - Unified Agenda Released without FY 2019 Regulatory Reform Report, by Daniel R. Pérez

11/6/19 - STB's Market Dominance and Final Offer Rate Review, by Jerry Ellig

11/18/19 - Rail Regulators Ponder Benefit-Cost Analysis, by Jerry Ellig

11/12/19 - Tracking Regulatory Activity through Trends in Federal Budgets, by Mark Febrizio

11/6/19 - Tracking Regulatory Activity through Trends in Federal Budgets, by Brian Mannix

10/23/19 - Regulators’ Budget: Homeland Security Remains Key Administration Priority, by Mark Febrizio, Melinda Warren, & Susan E. Dudley

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Graphic including an image of people pouring out alcohol during prohibition next to a futuristic flying car. Text reads From Prohibition to Flying Cars: The History & Future of Regulation

Join us on February 4th as we celebrate our 10th anniversary with an event that will distill the milestones from the last century, and launch us into the next century of regulatory policy!

New Commentaries from the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center

Research

Recent working papers and published articles from Center scholars
Surface Transportation Board Logo

STB's Rate Review and Market Dominance -- Reply Comment

January 13, 2020

By: Jerry Ellig
This reply comment addresses issues raised during two recent proceedings where the Surface Transportation Board proposed a streamlined approach to assessing whether a railroad has market dominance and a final offer process for small rate disputes.

Public Administration Review logo

Designing a Choice Architecture for Regulators

December 03, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley & Zhoudan Xie
Recognizing that cognitive biases can also affect regulators themselves, this article attempts to undertand how the institutional environment in which regulators operate interacts with their cognitive biases. This article offers suggestions for improving the regulatory choice architecture at federal agencies by having public managers and policy makers factor in predictable biases when regulating individual behaviors or market transactions.

Image of the Surface Transportation Board logo

STB's Railroad Revenue Adequacy

December 02, 2019

By: Jerry Ellig
The Surface Transportation Board will hold a hearing on December 12 to discuss recommendations from the STB's Rate Reform Task Force. This comment addresses several of the task force's proposals, and provides additional recommendations for the STB to improve its revenue adequacy regulations.

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Regulatory Impact Analysis and Litigation Risk

November 22, 2019

By Christopher Carrigan, Jerry Ellig, and Zhoudan Xie
This paper explores the role that the regulatory impact analyses (RIAs) that agencies are required to prepare for important proposed rules play in decisions by courts about whether these rules should be upheld when they are challenged after promulgation. The results suggest that better RIAs are associated with lower likelihoods that the associated rules are later invalidated by courts, provided that the associated agency explains how it used the RIA in its decision-making. When the agency does not describe how the RIA was utilized, there is no correlation between the quality of analysis and the likelihood the regulation will be invalidated. An explanation of the RIA’s role in the agency’s decision also appears to increase the likelihood that the regulation will be invalidated by inviting an increased level of court scrutiny, and as a result, the quality of the RIA must be sufficiently high to offset this effect.

Surface Transportation Board logo

STB's Market Dominance and Final Offer Rate Review

November 06, 2019

By: Jerry Ellig
The two rulemakings this comment addresses are the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB’s) latest efforts to develop simpler and less costly rate complaint processes. These two proceedings provide an excellent opportunity for the STB to “test drive” the framework for benefit-cost analysis that is most commonly employed by federal agencies: the analytical principles and requirements articulated in President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866 and OMB Circular A-4. The most common and accurate term for this type of analysis is “Regulatory Impact Analysis” (RIA), because a full RIA involves more than just estimation of benefits and costs. This comment briefly explains the RIA framework and demonstrates how it could be used to answer key factual questions the STB must answer in order to accomplish its statutory goals.

Chinese Ministry of Commerce logo and EPA logo

Consultation as Policymaking Innovation: Comparing Government Transparency and Public Participation in China and the United States

November 01, 2019

By Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This article compares government transparency and public participation in consultation—a prominent instrument of policymaking innovation—across China and the United States. The analysis specifically focuses on consultation at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—leading agencies in the implementation of consultation in policymaking in their respective countries—as a means of evaluating best practices in China relative to a corresponding benchmark in the United States. The analysis reveals both similarities and differences in transparency and participation at the MOC and EPA. The findings suggest that differences in the Chinese and American political systems, rather than issues of administrative capacity, are the primary limitations of consultation as a policymaking innovation in contemporary China.

Image of Budgetary Costs of Federal Regulation from 1960 to 2020.

Regulators’ Budget: Homeland Security Remains Key Administration Priority

October 23, 2019

By: Mark Febrizio, Melinda Warren, and Susan Dudley
10/23/19 -- The annual report for FY 2020 finds that the president's proposed Budget would increase overall spending on regulatory agencies over FY 2019 levels. The total request of $75.2 billion in regulatory outlays is a 2.9% increase year-to-year when adjusted for inflation. The report also finds that the number of regulators would rise from 281,606 to 287,063 – a 1.9% increase relative to 2019. These topline figures hide some large proposed increases in some regulatory agencies and large decreases in others. Regulators in the Department of Homeland Security would receive a 9.2 percent real increase in resources and a 5.6 percent increase in staff in 2020. On the other hand, the Department of Energy would receive 31.8 percent less in 2020 than appropriated in 2019.

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.

Policy and Internet journal logo

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).

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis logo

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."

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis logo

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.

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis logo

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.

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis logo

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).

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis logo

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.