Publications

Regulatory Studies Center scholars conduct applied research to understand regulatory policy and practice from a public interest perspective. Many of our publications fall into the following categories:

Recent Publications

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.

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.