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

EPA Logo

Public Interest Comment: Increasing Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process

August 14, 2018

By: Brian F. Mannix
In this comment, Mannix explores the reasons why the Environmental Protection Agency might choose to conduct a rulemaking on the general topic of how it considers benefits and costs, reviews some of the legal considerations that should be brought to bear on that effort, and recommends that the administration consider encouraging this type of activity in other agencies.

Transparency

Public Interest Comment: EPA's Benefit-Cost Analysis in the Rulemaking Process

August 13, 2018

By: Joseph J. Cordes
In this comment, Cordes discusses the value-added of using benefit-cost analysis in the regulatory process, the extent to which guidance is presently available on the application of benefit-cost analysis to regulatory analysis, the specific issue of which stakeholders should receive standing in benefit-cost analysis, and the inclusion of indirect effects, also referred to as co-benefits, in benefit-cost calculations.

Supreme Court Economic Review

Benefit-Cost Analysis as a Check on Administrative Discretion

August 06, 2018

By Brian F. Mannix
Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) continues to be the principal tool used by American presidents to guide the discretionary decisions of regulatory agencies under their supervision, and increasingly it is viewed by the courts as an important consideration for agencies to take into account in justifying their regulatory decisions. This paper argues that BCA is properly viewed, not simply as a technocratic planning tool, but as a solution to a principal-agent problem. Specifically, it is intended to test whether an agency can demonstrate that it is acting in the public interest. Viewed in this light, some common analytical practices used by regulatory agencies become questionable. A BCA should not, for example, use an assumption that consumers are irrational to support a claim that coercive regulation is making them better off. Consumer sovereignty is axiomatic in BCA, and an agency that uses BCA to justify its actions must accept individuals’ judgments about their own welfare.

Supreme Court Economic Review

Improving Regulatory Science: A Case Study of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards

August 02, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley & Marcus Peacock
This paper explores the motivations and institutional incentives of participants involved in the development of regulation aimed at reducing health risks, with a goal of understanding and identifying solutions to what the Bipartisan Policy Center has characterized as “a tendency to frame regulatory issues as debates solely about science, regardless of the actual subject in dispute, [that] is at the root of the stalemate and acrimony all too present in the regulatory system today.” We focus our analysis with a case study of the procedures for developing National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act, and attempt to identify procedural approaches that bring greater diversity (in data, expertise, experience, and accountability) into the decision process.

First 18 months chart

Trump Administration Picks up the Regulatory Pace in its Second Year

August 01, 2018

By Bridget C.E. Dooling
With the first 18 months of the Trump Administration complete, we can check in on his regulatory activity to date. This new analysis shows that Trump's regulatory activity is 70% lower than it was at the same point in the Obama Administration; a striking result for an administration that has made regulatory reform a signature issue.

benefit cost analysis

Public Interest Comment: Increasing Consistency and Transparency in EPA's Benefit Cost Analysis

July 17, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley
In this comment, Dudley supports EPA’s efforts to improve the transparency and consistency of the analysis supporting its significant regulations and, referring to the Consumer’s Guide to Regulatory Impact Analysis, reviews ten tips for achieving this objective. She encourages EPA, as a first step, to review all its statutory authority and, to the maximum extent possible, interpret its statutory standards through a lens of standard benefit-cost analysis principles.

eggs

Public Interest Comment on The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s proposed rule: Egg Products Inspection Regulations

June 12, 2018

By: Richard B. Belzer, Independent Consultant
This public interest comment provides an overview of the Food Safety Inspection Service’s (FSIS) proposed rule requiring official plants that process egg products to develop and implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures. FSIS would eliminate certain existing requirements, and add new labeling requirements. The comment reviews the justifications for the rulemaking change, and provides answers to how it would affect previous rules, industry growth, and foodborne illness rates.

FY19 - Regulators' Budget Report Cover

FY 2019 Regulators' Budget: More for Homeland Security, Less for Environmental Regulation

May 14, 2018

By: Susan E. Dudley and Melinda Warren
This year's annual report finds that overall spending on regulatory agencies will be maintained at 2018 levels. The total request of $71 billion in regulatory outlays is a 0.1% increase year-to-year when adjusted for inflation. The report also finds that the number of regulators would fall slightly from 280,872 to 280,269 - a 0.2% reduction compared to 2018. Despite the small changes across agencies overall there are substantial changes within particular agencies. The Dept. of Homeland Security, Food & Drug Administration, and Housing & Urban Development will see 4.8%, 5%, and 11% increases in federal outlays, respectively. On the other hand, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will receive 10.4% less, and the Environmental Protection Agency will be spending 24.9% less than in 2018.

EPA logo

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.

OMB logo

Public Comment on OMB's 2017 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations

April 09, 2018

By: Brian F. Mannix, Sofie E. Miller, & Susan E. Dudley
The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center improves regulatory policy through research, education, and outreach. As part of its mission, the GW Regulatory Studies Center conducts careful and independent analyses to assess rulemaking proposals from the perspective of the public interest. This comment on the Office of Management and Budget’s 2017 Draft Report to Congress offers suggestions for improving the information value of the Report, as well as the evidence on which regulatory policies depend, and does not represent the views of any particular affected party or special interest.

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.

agency org chart

Organization, Process, and Agency Rulemaking

March 09, 2018

By Christopher Carrigan & Russell Mills
In this working paper, Christopher Carrigan and Russell Mills demonstrate how variation in the design of rulemaking procedures inside regulatory agencies affects the resulting rules. By employing a novel dataset tracking job functions of agency rule contacts for over 200 economically significant rules, the authors find that expanding the breadth of personnel types closely involved in a rulemaking reduces both the time it takes to promulgate the rule and the resulting detail with which it is presented. This work demonstrates how theories describing the implications of assigning team participants distinct roles in private organizations translate to government rulemaking.

magnifying glass

A Proposed Framework for Evidence-Based Regulation

February 22, 2018

By Marcus Peacock, Sofie E. Miller, & Daniel R. Pérez
Policymakers and scholars have given serious thought to how evidence-based approaches can improve policymaking, but using evidence to improve regulatory outcomes requires a separate framework than the one currently in use. This paper details how the regulatory process differs from other federal policymaking and establishes a framework for evidence-based regulation (EBR) to improve regulatory outcomes by planning for, collecting, and using evidence throughout the life a regulation. The authors discuss the main barriers that regulatory agencies face in implementing an EBR approach and advance concrete proposals for overcoming these barriers.

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Book Review of Andrew W. Lo's "Review of Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought"

February 08, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley
What drives our responses to risk and uncertainty, and how can we improve them? In his 2017 book, Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought, MIT Sloan finance professor Andrew Lo answers that question using evolutionary concepts and insights, including competition, innovation, reproduction, and adaptation.

Internet privacy

Measuring Costs and Benefits of Privacy Controls: Conceptual Issues and Empirical Estimates

November 06, 2017

By Joseph J. Cordes, Co-Director & Daniel R. Pérez, Policy Analyst
As personal information becomes increasingly available to internet providers, the government, and employers, a lively debate has emerged about the role of public policy in ensuring a proper balance between parties who benefit from greater access to information and the protection of individual rights to privacy. Additionally, emerging technologies such as highly automated vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems bring privacy concerns to the forefront—particularly regarding the proper role of federal regulatory agencies. Agency rulemaking requires a thorough analysis of regulatory benefits and costs. Our paper hopes to contribute to the development and greater use of empirical measures of consumer privacy.