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

Surface Transportation Board Logo

STB's Rate Review and Market Dominance -- Reply Comment

January 13, 2020

By: Jerry Ellig
This reply comment addresses issues raised during two recent proceedings where the Surface Transportation Board proposed a streamlined approach to assessing whether a railroad has market dominance and a final offer process for small rate disputes.

Photo of Mark Febrizio & Daniel Perez

OIRA’s Regulatory Reform Report for Fiscal Year 2019

December 18, 2019

12/18/19 -- The Regulatory Reform Results for Fiscal Year 2019 are out, and OIRA is touting that regulatory agencies produced $13.5 billion in present value cost savings. Beyond the glossy highlights, however, are a few important “firsts” in implementation, such as total agency cost savings falling short of the government-wide targets.

Daniel R Perez

Upcoming CRA Deadline has Implications for Regulatory Oversight by Congress

December 11, 2019

12/11/19 -- The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to disapprove regulations issued by agencies and contains a lookback provision that places almost six months of rulemaking in jeopardy of elimination by the next Congress. The window for this period of review opens in 2020, but agencies will have to weigh the tradeoffs of rushing to publish their rules before the window. According to the 2020 House calendar, any rules issued after May 19, 2020 may be subject to review by the 117th Congress. However, historical data suggest the lookback period is more likely to begin sometime in July or early August of 2020.

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Regulatory Impact Analysis and Litigation Risk

November 22, 2019

By Christopher Carrigan, Jerry Ellig, and Zhoudan Xie
This paper explores the role that the regulatory impact analyses (RIAs) that agencies are required to prepare for important proposed rules play in decisions by courts about whether these rules should be upheld when they are challenged after promulgation. The results suggest that better RIAs are associated with lower likelihoods that the associated rules are later invalidated by courts, provided that the associated agency explains how it used the RIA in its decision-making. When the agency does not describe how the RIA was utilized, there is no correlation between the quality of analysis and the likelihood the regulation will be invalidated. An explanation of the RIA’s role in the agency’s decision also appears to increase the likelihood that the regulation will be invalidated by inviting an increased level of court scrutiny, and as a result, the quality of the RIA must be sufficiently high to offset this effect.

Photo of Daniel Perez

Unified Agenda Released without FY 2019 Regulatory Reform Report

November 20, 2019

11/20/19 -- This morning, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released its annual Regulatory Plan and semiannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. Notably absent is the Regulatory Reform Status Report, which tracks executive agency performance in complying with the deregulatory requirements of Executive Order (EO) 13771. With regards to actions listed as active in the Agenda, agencies plan to issue an average of approximately 2.5 significant deregulatory actions for every 1 regulatory action. However, our analysis of economically significant actions suggests a potential shift in agency rulemaking.

Photo of Mark Febrizio

Tracking Regulatory Activity through Trends in Federal Budgets

November 12, 2019

11/12/19 -- The FY 2020 Regulators’ Budget requests an overall increase in spending. Details within that request point to a notable increase in spending for agencies focused on homeland security, with a decrease in agency spending for regulators focused on the environment and energy.

Photo of Brian Mannix

Exhaustion can be Exhausting! EPA Proposes Reforms to Permit Appeals Process

November 06, 2019

11/6/19 -- The proposed Environmental Appeals Board reforms will provide a faster path to a final EPA decision, so that applicants can either live with it or challenge it in court, but in either case they will not be stuck in administrative limbo.

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.

Chinese Ministry of Commerce logo and EPA logo

Consultation as Policymaking Innovation: Comparing Government Transparency and Public Participation in China and the United States

November 01, 2019

By Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This article compares government transparency and public participation in consultation—a prominent instrument of policymaking innovation—across China and the United States. The analysis specifically focuses on consultation at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—leading agencies in the implementation of consultation in policymaking in their respective countries—as a means of evaluating best practices in China relative to a corresponding benchmark in the United States. The analysis reveals both similarities and differences in transparency and participation at the MOC and EPA. The findings suggest that differences in the Chinese and American political systems, rather than issues of administrative capacity, are the primary limitations of consultation as a policymaking innovation in contemporary China.

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.

Photo of Aryamala Prasad

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.

Photo of Jerry Ellig

Bigger Stones for David: Tools to Give OIRA More Leverage in Regulatory Review

October 02, 2019

10/2/19 -- Regulatory review of agency rulemaking activity through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs should be linked to each agency’s strategic planning, and carry budgetary consequences. This will help agencies to more clearly define their goals, achieve their objectives, and reward positive results.

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."