Energy & Environment

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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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Revising WOTUS

April 16, 2019

4/16/19 -- The proposed revision to the definition of the “waters of the United States” is a significant improvement over prior definitions, including that adopted in 2015. If the definition contained in the final rule is similar to that which has been proposed, it is likely to provide greater legal certainty for the regulated community and is likely to be less vulnerable to legal challenge than were prior definitions.

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Public Interest Comment: Revising WOTUS

April 16, 2019

By: Jonathan H. Adler
In this public interest comment, Jonathan Adler finds that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed revision of the definition of “waters of the United States” is a substantial improvement over prior definitions, not least because it acknowledges the statutory and constitutional limits on federal regulatory jurisdiction under the CWA and takes seriously the need for greater clarity and certainty about the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction.

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Public Interest Comment: Council on Environmental Quality - Implementing NEPA

August 20, 2018

By: Mark Febrizio
This comment makes recommendations for how the Council on Environmental Quality could improve its data collection methods, how to use those data to enhance retrospective review of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and their effect on industry and the environment, and where to increase transparency in its decision-making process.

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Public Comment on the EPA's Proposed Rule Repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units

April 27, 2018

By: Brian F. Mannix
The EPA has proposed to repeal the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions guidelines for electric generating units issued on October 23, 2015—better known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Agency has also sought comment separately on what, if anything, ought to replace it. This comment, often drawing on earlier comments, will focus on the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that supported EPA’s 2015 CPP final rule, and outlines those areas where the agency made major errors in the 2015 RIA, and where it could go further to improve the analysis.

Spam

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

April 02, 2018

By: Steven J. Balla, Alexander R. Beck, William C. Cubbison, & Aryamala Prasad
This article examines the occurrence and nature of mass comment campaigns in rulemaking at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 2012 and 2016. The analysis demonstrates that campaigns of more duplicate or near-duplicate comments occur across issue areas under EPA jurisdictions, and that broad societal constituencies—such as environmentalists—are more active in sponsoring campaigns than specific interests negatively affected by stringent regulations. These findings in some respects confirm and in other respects challenge existing understandings of mass comment campaign participation in administrative rulemaking.

rick perry

Public Comment on DOE’s Request for Information on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs

July 07, 2017

By Sofie E. Miller
This comment provides the Department of Energy with recommendations on how to reduce regulatory burdens pursuant to Executive Orders 13771 and 13777. Miller recommends that DOE establish consistent internal standards for determining whether a rule is "economically justified," including using a threshold to limit the proportion of consumers who bear net costs. DOE should also review each rule before increasing the stringency of its standards, and consider surveys or other measures of actual consumer behavior to ensure that its assumptions about household appliance energy use are accurate.

Kitchen appliances

Reforming the Energy Policy and Conservation Act: Learning from Experience on Energy Efficiency

June 27, 2017

By Sofie E. Miller
The Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) grants the Department of Energy the authority to regulate the energy efficiency of everyday consumer appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators. Because these standards affect almost all households and incur such large potential benefits and costs, the underlying statute merits close inspection. This working paper provides seven recommendations for reforming EPCA to ensure that consumers do not bear disproportionate burdens as a result of energy efficiency rules.

air conditioners

Public Comment on DOE's Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps

April 25, 2017

By Sofie E. Miller
The Department of Energy’s direct final rule amends the energy efficiency standards for residential central air conditioners and split-system heat pumps. However, DOE’s own analysis suggests that up to 45% of households in some regions will bear net costs as a result of these standards, and that consumers would experience greater savings under less stringent energy efficiency standards. Due to the lack of consumer input in the negotiated rulemaking process—and the significant burdens that consumers are likely to bear from this standard—DOE should not pursue this standard via direct final rule.

midnight

The Risks of Regulating in the Dark

January 18, 2017

By Sofie E. Miller in the Federalist Society Review, Volume 18
“Midnight” regulations are those issued after the November presidential election but before Inauguration Day as the outgoing administration attempts to finalize its regulatory policy priorities with a surge of rulemaking activity. Scholars have theorized that midnight rules are problematic because they short-circuit important procedural safeguards that ensure high-quality regulatory outcomes, like rigorous analysis, internal and external review, and public input in the rulemaking process. Stepping beyond theory, recent examples—such as the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards for clothes washers—illustrate that midnight rules impose real burdens.

Nudge Theory

One Standard to Rule Them All: The Disparate Impact of Energy Efficiency Regulations

October 12, 2016

Chapter by Sofie E. Miller and Brian F. Mannix
Federal regulations restrict the energy that everyday products can use, for everything from cars to microwaves. While these rules impose significant costs on consumers, the benefits are harder to identify. Agencies claim that restricting consumers’ choices provides consumers with large benefits, but this reasoning is hard to reconcile with the fact that consumers have many legitimate reasons to prefer the appliances they buy and the cars they drive. This chapter explores the reasoning behind energy efficiency regulations and why these reasons are insufficient to support the large costs they impose on consumers, especially low-income consumers.

EPA

Evaluation at EPA: Determinants of the Environmental Protection Agency's Capacity to Supply Program Evaluation

August 31, 2016

By Nick Hart
Since EPA’s inception, it has emphasized the use of prospective policy analysis tools to inform environmental decisions, including cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment. However, EPA and others rarely evaluate these same environmental policies after implementation, to inform future policy development or to modify existing policies. Nicholas Hart, PhD recently completed his dissertation in GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration focusing on the processes and determinants that affect evaluation supply at EPA. Hart identifies ten key factors that constituted both barriers to and facilitators of evaluation. His policy brief summarizes these factors and his conclusions.

Manufactured homes

Public Comment on Energy Conservation Standards for Manufactured Housing

August 16, 2016

By Sofie E. Miller
The Department of Energy’s proposed rule would establish new energy efficiency standards for manufactured housing (formerly known as mobile homes). Due to anticipated price increases, the rule would have a regressive effect on low-income and elderly households, who are the primary occupants of manufactured homes. DOE’s analysis doesn’t take into account resale market obstacles that could prevent homeowners from recouping the higher upfront costs of efficient units, especially in Southern states with high poverty rates that bear the highest costs from the rule.

Corn field at sunset

Public Comment on EPA’s Proposed Renewable Fuel Standards for 2017 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2018

July 12, 2016

By Sofie E. Miller
EPA’s latest Renewable Fuel Standard proposal would increase the mandated total renewable fuel production to 18.8 billion gallons in 2017. Although it was intended to improve the environment, availability of new scientific, technical, and economic information shows that the RFS program is likely causing significant environmental harm through increased greenhouse gas emissions and damage to waterbodies and ecosystems. 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.

Department of Energy seal

Public Comment on DOE’s Regulatory Burden Request for Information "Reducing Regulatory Burden"

July 11, 2016

By Sofie E. Miller
To improve its ongoing retrospective review efforts, this public comment recommends that the Department of Energy incorporate plans for retrospective review into its economically significant or major rules, and provide enough time between energy efficiency standards to allow for an effective review of each rule before increasing the stringency of its standards. DOE should also consider surveys or other measures of actual consumer behavior to ensure that its assumptions about household appliance energy use are accurate. Finally, DOE should commit to measuring whether its standards negatively affect competition in regulated industries.