Energy & Environment

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Are Agencies Responsive To Mass Comment Campaigns?

October 07, 2019

10/7/19 -- New research finds that agencies perform a detailed review of mass comment campaigns on their proposed rules, but the affect of these campaigns on the outcome of final rules may be negligible.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.