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

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.

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Public Interest Comment: Dept. of Education's Student Assistance & Loan Programs

September 07, 2018

By: Daniel R. Pérez
This comment argues that the Dept. of Education's proposal to rescind its 2016 change to the definition of misrepresentation and to change its 2016 approach making a priori assumptions about the quality of non-profit and for-profit schools better complies with existing regulatory requirements. The Department should retain borrowers’ ability to file affirmative claims, collect additional data to inform future rulemaking, and more thoroughly consider the net impact of its proposed rules on processing borrower claims on a case-by-case basis.

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Public Interest Comment: Council on Environmental Quality - Implementing NEPA

August 20, 2018

By: Mark Febrizio
This comment makes recommendations for how the Council on Environmental Quality could improve its data collection methods, how to use those data to enhance retrospective review of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and their effect on industry and the environment, and where to increase transparency in its decision-making process.

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.

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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.