Research

The GW Regulatory Studies Center improves regulatory policy through research, education, and outreach. The Center's scholars conduct applied research to understand regulatory policy and practice from a public interest perspective.

To read more about our different publications, visit the Publications page.

Latest Research

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2019 Spring Unified Agenda

May 22, 2019

5/22/19 - The Spring 2019 Unified Agenda includes a total of 3,791 actions, 295 of which are classified as regulatory, 721 as deregulatory, with the remainder exempt or classified as “other.” Of the total number of actions, 177 are economically significant. The agencies with the most deregulatory actions planned are the Department of Transportation (DOT) with 129 actions and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with 65; these same two agencies have had the most deregulatory actions planned since the Fall 2017 Agenda.

Mark Febrizio

Proposed Revisions to DOE’s Process Rule Include Beneficial Changes and Areas for Improvement

May 21, 2019

On February 13, 2019, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that updates its internal rulemaking procedures for energy conservation standards, called the Process Rule. Policy analyst Mark Febrizio submitted a public comment on DOE’s proposed revisions to the Process Rule that focused on eight areas of interest in the revised Process Rule, highlighting both beneficial changes and additional areas for improvement. This commentary builds on the public comment by examining how the Process Rule connects with two broader concepts in regulatory policy—formalizing internal procedures and retrospective review.

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Public Interest Comment: DOE's Energy Conservation Program for Appliance Standards

May 07, 2019

The Department of Energy is proposing to update and modernize its current rulemaking methodology for establishing new or revised energy conservation standards and test procedures, called the “Process Rule.” While the agency has adhered to internal procedures for years, the notice of proposed rulemaking seeks to make those procedures binding on the agency. The proposed rule includes many important provisions and is largely a step in the right direction. This public comment focuses on eight areas of interest in the revised Process Rule, highlighting both beneficial changes and additional areas for improvement.

Julie Balla

Early but Not Often: A Look into the Use of ANPRMs in Rulemaking

May 03, 2019

5/3/18 -- Prior to the proposal of a new rule, agencies may decide to seek public comment through an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on whether a new rule is necessary and what should be included if the rule progresses. Despite the importance of public participation in rulemaking, only 5% of all significant rules are preceded by an ANPRM. This commentary takes a closer look at trends in the use of ANPRMs and suggests questions for further research.

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Statutory Clarity and Judicial Review of Regulatory Impact Analysis

April 29, 2019

4/29/19 -- Precise statutory language corresponds to better benefit-cost analysis and more consistent judicial review. Originally posted in The Regulatory Review.

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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.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Working Paper Series: Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

April 10, 2019

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.”

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Public Interest Comment: IRS Qualified Business Income Deduction

April 08, 2019

By Jerry Ellig & Jeffery Kaufman
The 2017 tax reform allowed investors in real estate investment trusts (REITS) and publicly-traded partnerships (PTPs) to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of qualifying distributions from REITs and PTPs. The Internal Revenue Service seeks comment on whether investors should also be allowed to take this deduction if they own REITs or PTPs through a regulated investment company, such as a mutual fund. Unfortunately, the IRS did not conduct an economic analysis sufficient to determine which choice is economically efficient. A complete analysis would first assess whether the deduction is economically efficient; building on that analysis, the IRS could then determine whether extending the deduction is efficient. We provide some illustrative calculations that point the way toward a more complete analysis.

Photo of Aryamala Prasad

Is GDPR the Right Model for the U.S.?

April 03, 2019

4/3/19 -- Recent discussions on online privacy regulation refer to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. It is often seen as a good model to follow for protecting personal data in the digital age. We apply a benefit-cost framework to understand its implications on this side of the Atlantic. Given the existing regulations, an evidence-based approach to identify net-benefits might offer a balanced approach to personal data protection.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Planning for Everything (Besides Death and Taxes)

April 03, 2019

By Susan Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” this paper notes that 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.”

Julie Balla

Regulatory Sludge: Reducing Paperwork Burdens to Preserve Our Time

March 20, 2019

3/20/19 - Cass Sunstein spoke at the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis Annual Conference & Meeting on March 15th, graduate assistant Julie Balla summarizes his remarks which included a call to action to tackle both the stock and flow of paperwork burdens.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Responsible Precautions for Uncertain Environmental Risks

March 08, 2019

By W. Kip Viscusi
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” W. Kip Viscusi elaborates on best practices for decisionmakers facing low probability, high consequence hazards. Viscusi points out that these uncertain risks often create incentives to pursue suboptimal policy approaches that potentially over commit public resources to less consequential hazards.

Hands on computer with Chinese flag

Consultation, Participation, and the Institutionalization of Governance Reform in China

March 04, 2019

By Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This article examines the institutionalization of online consultation, a prominent instrument of governance reform in China in which government officials provide interested parties with opportunities to comment on draft laws and regulations over the Internet. The analysis demonstrates that government consultation practices have institutionalized to a greater degree than the citizen feedback that occurs in response to draft laws and regulations. These results point to the conclusion that online consultation is a governance reform that has advanced transparency and (to a lesser degree) public participation, but has not eroded the Chinese Communist Party’s dominance over policymaking.

The Journal of Law and Politics logo

Improving Regulatory Benefit-Cost Analysis

January 22, 2019

By Susan E. Dudley and Brian F. Mannix
Across developed countries, benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is the principal public policy tool for laying out available information in a way that allows policy makers to make balanced, efficient regulatory decisions in the face of limited resources. However, BCA has limitations. This article examines the institutional and technical factors limiting the use of BCA as a tool for improving regulatory policy and offers some recommendations for reducing those barriers.