Commentary Archive

Unified Agenda numbers

Spring 2014 Unified Agenda

May 29, 2014

OMB recently released its semiannual Unified Agenda listing the ongoing and upcoming regulations planned by agencies. The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda includes 3,348 total regulatory actions, 524 of which are appearing in the Agenda for the first time, and 197 of which are “economically significant.” The majority (71%) of the regulatory actions in the Spring Agenda are listed as “active,” of which 17% are published for the first time in this Agenda.

The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda does not differ significantly from the number of total actions listed in the previous Unified Agenda, published in Fall 2013. While there was a very slight decrease in active regulatory actions between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, the count of total regulatory actions (including “long-term” and “completed”) increased from 3,305 to 3,348, and the number of economically significant actions and regulatory actions published for the first time also increased. However, the increase in total regulatory actions listed in the spring Agenda is entirely a result of an increase in the number of “completed” regulatory actions, which does not have any effect on regulations that the public can expect in the coming year.

school intersection

Revisions to Rule could Earn the Department of Education a Passing Grade on Retrospective Review

May 28, 2014

In its proposed rule, the Department of Education creates standards and conditions by which Gainful Employment (GE) Programs can be eligible for title IV, HEA funding to address to market failures: asymmetric information and a negative externality. First, many GE programs are not transparent about the outcomes of students who attend these programs, which leads students to make irrational decisions about their educational investment. Second, this lack of available information for students creates a negative externality by imposing an unwanted financial burden on society from students defaulting on their Federal loans. By committing to retrospectively review the metrics stated by the Department in its proposal, and by incorporating the suggestions for improving retrospective review in its final rule, the Department of Education will earn a passing grade on their retrospective review plan.


DOT Should Incorporate Lookback Plans into Proposed Hours of Service Rule

May 21, 2014

Despite executive orders and guidance calling on agencies to plan for evaluating regulations, FMCSA's proposal does not discuss how it would do so. While some of the linkages FMCSA anticipates cannot be directly measured (e.g., will compliance with HOS regulations actually reduce driver fatigue?), the extent to which the safety benefits that FMCSA predicts transpire should be measurable with data that the agency collects regularly through roadside inspections and accident reports. Consistent with Executive Order 13563, in the preamble of its final rule, FMCSA should commit to measuring the actual results of this regulation, and specify the data and measurement tools it plans to use.

Coal power plant

EPA’s Unmeasurable Rule: Inadequate Analysis Obstructs Public Accountability

May 12, 2014

Multiple government guidelines instruct agencies to ensure that future regulations are “designed and written in ways that facilitate evaluation of their consequences and thus promote retrospective analyses and measurement of ‘actual results.’” But there is a major flaw in EPA’s proposal: the outcomes and assumptions are both self-contradictory and unmeasurable, making it difficult for the agency and the public to assess whether this policy will have the intended effect.

Federal agency building

EPA’s Wood Stove Analysis is Smoke & Mirrors

May 05, 2014

EPA projects that the benefits of its proposal to regulate emissions from residential wood stoves would outweigh the costs by a factor of more than 100. However, EPA’s analysis is flawed in ways that not only make these net benefit estimates suspect but violate Presidential requirements, and may undermine EPA’s determination of what reflects the “best system of emissions reduction.”