CPR Archive for Amy Sinden

Supreme Court Remains Skeptical of the 'Cost-Benefit State'

by Amy Sinden | September 26, 2016

Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Amy Sinden.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Michigan v. EPA last term, a number of commentators have revived talk of something called the "Cost Benefit State." It is supposed to be a good thing, although it makes some of us shudder. The phrase was originally coined by Cass Sunstein in a 2002 book by that name. It describes a supposedly utopian government in which agencies and courts apply to all regulatory decision-making a formal cost-benefit analysis (CBA) grounded in welfare economics.

Sunstein and other eager proponents of CBA have seized on language in the Michigan case that, in the course of striking down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mercury rule, gestured toward the existence of a presumption favoring the consideration of costs in regulatory decision-making. Sunstein heralded the opinion as a "rifle shot" ringing in the arrival of the Cost-Benefit State. And John Graham and Paul Noe, in a recent RegBlog essay, echoed that sentiment, congratulating the Court on reversing its earlier anti-CBA presumption.

Indeed, in the midst of all of this hoopla, the casual observer might be forgiven for assuming that the Toxic Substances Control Act reform legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama last month is ...

Supreme Court's Mercury Decision Did Not Usher in Sunstein's 'Cost-Benefit State'

by Amy Sinden | July 13, 2015
In Michigan v. EPA, handed down two weeks ago, the Supreme Court waded into the decades-long debate over the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) in agency rulemaking.   The decision struck down EPA’s limits on mercury emissions from power plants for the agency’s failure to consider costs, and so appears, superficially at least, like a win for the pro-CBA camp.  Indeed, Professor Cass Sunstein of Harvard—President Obama’s former “regulatory czar” and one of CBA’s most prominent cheerleaders—has been crowing about the ...

EPA’s Long-Delayed Cooling Water Rule Finally Out: Industry Wins Again; Fish (and the Rest of Us) Lose

by Amy Sinden | May 20, 2014
The EPA issued its long-awaited cooling water rule yesterday and the score appears to be:  Industry – home run; Fish – zero.   Which is to say, it’s bad news not just for the fish but also for all of us who depend on the health of our aquatic ecosystems – which is to say, everyone.   This is the rule that governs the design standards for the massive cooling water intakes at power plants and other large industrial facilities that ...

CPR Scholars: ACUS’ recommendations to OIRA fall short

by Amy Sinden | November 05, 2013
Since the Reagan Administration, federal agencies have been required by Executive Order to send their major rules to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review before releasing them to the public. OIRA review consists of, among other things, ensuring that agencies subject their rules to cost-benefit analysis to make sure the dollar value of their costs to industry exceeds the dollar value of the benefits they confer on the public. It was no surprise under the ...

Executive Order 12866’s Cost-Benefit Test is still with us and I Can Hear Ben Franklin Rolling Over in his Grave

by Amy Sinden | October 02, 2013
It was 20 years ago this week that President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12866.   That was a watershed of sorts, because it marked the adoption by a Democratic administration of a key aspect of President Reagan’s anti-regulatory agenda -- the requirement that all major federal regulations undergo cost-benefit analysis.  This was not a move that pleased Clinton’s liberal base, since cost-benefit analysis was widely understood to be a tool favored by industry for weakening and delaying regulation.  But, nonetheless, Clinton signed ...

AP Says Administration "Unleashes New Rules;" Mostly Finds Examples of Rules Not Unleashed

by Amy Sinden | December 14, 2012
Cross-posted from ThinkProgress. “Election over, administration unleashes new rules,” trumpeted an Associated Press story this week. What are these newly unleashed rules? Perhaps the big food safety rules that have been stalled for more than a year have gone through? Rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants? Long-awaited rules to protect coal miners’ safety? Not quite. In fact, the AP strained to come up with just tiny examples: “[T]he Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules to update water quality ...

Why the Entergy Decision Shouldn't Hobble the Clean Water Act's Future

by Amy Sinden | October 18, 2012
The Clean Water Act turns 40 today.   One of the remarkable things about those four decades is the extent to which the Act has largely withstood repeated attempts by industry to water down its technology-based standard-setting provisions with cost-benefit analysis.   Just three years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, environmentalists largely lost one skirmish in this ongoing war, but the legacy of that opinion may actually be less harmful to the statute’s ability to protect ...

Sore Losers: Two House Subcommittee Chairs Want to Discount the Lives of Seniors in Last-Ditch Effort to Downplay Benefits of Clean Air Regulation

by Amy Sinden | November 17, 2011
Remember that kid on the playground who always insisted on changing the rules of the game and then still threw a tantrum when he lost? That’s just the kind of spoiled-brat behavior we’re seeing from the coal industry and its elected agents on Capitol Hill this week. Coal and other polluting industries have spent decades complaining about the federal laws that protect public health and the environment, arguing that we should change the rules by which they operate, forcing agencies to perform ...

Auto Dealers Group Wrong About How EPA Considers Costs in Vehicle Efficiency Standards

by Amy Sinden | September 29, 2011
This post was written by Member Scholar Amy Sinden and Policy Analyst Lena Pons. Last week, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) sponsored a fly-in lobby day to support an amendment that would strip EPA of the authority to set greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light trucks for 2017-2025. The amendment, offered earlier this year by Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio), would prevent EPA from spending any money to implement the 2017-2025 standards. NADA wants the National Highway Traffic ...

Top Regulatory Opponents Tout Story Claiming EPA Wants to Make 230,000 New Hires; Turns Out Agency Was Arguing Specifically Against It

by Amy Sinden | September 27, 2011
It all started Monday on the Daily Caller. The story claimed that the EPA, in planning regulations on greenhouses gasses, is “asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.” The story spread like wild among many of the usual suspects, like National Review, Red State  and Fox News. And it was promoted by some of the top anti-regulation advocates in Congress: Senator ...

White House Flouts Agency Heads, Rolls Out Backroom Deal on Fuel Economy Standard

by Amy Sinden | July 29, 2011
This post was written by Member Scholar Amy Sinden and Policy Analyst Lena Pons. This morning President Obama will make an announcement about upcoming fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025. The announcement will reference the Administration’s plan to propose a standard to reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. These standards will set the pace at which automakers improve the fuel economy of cars for many years to come, and help ...

OIRA's Annual Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Regulation: Sunstein Rips another Page from the Republican Playbook

by Amy Sinden | June 30, 2011
Upon reading the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) latest annual Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations, one can be forgiven for wondering momentarily whether the 2008 election was just a dream and whether we’re still in the midst of a Republican administration. OIRA is telling us that the primary goal of government regulation—particularly environmental, health, and safety regulation—is not to protect the environment or public health, but to “promote[] the goals of ...

Administration's Regulatory 'Look-Back' Announcement Panders to Industry, Focuses Primarily on Eliminating Regs, Diverts Agencies from Crucial Work

by Amy Sinden | May 26, 2011
Following up on President Obama’s January Executive Order calling for agencies to conduct a regulatory “look-back,” the Administration today released a target list of health, safety, and environmental standards to be reviewed by agencies in the coming months, with an eye toward eliminating or modifying them. The President’s January announcement was driven by politics, and from all appearances, the process of reviewing these regulations will be as well. In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, and in a speech ...

Six Myths About Climate Change and the Clean Air Act

by Amy Sinden | April 18, 2011
In politics, repeating something over and over again can sometimes make it stick, whether it's true or not. From Reagan’s welfare queens, to the specter of “socialized” medicine leading to imminent communist takeover, these sorts of myths often start on the far right but then move surprisingly far to the center. And as the EPA has begun to move forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, we've seen one of these myths begin to take shape. This ...

EPA Punts on Cooling Water Rule; Despite Facts on the Ground, Decides Technology That Would Prevent Massive Fish Kills no Longer Feasible

by Amy Sinden | March 29, 2011
Around 6pm ET last night, after most reporters had wrapped up, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed cooling water rule. Under the Clean Water Act, this rule is supposed to protect the billions of fish and other aquatic organisms that are killed each day when they are squashed against intake screens or sucked up into cooling water systems at existing power plants and other industrial facilities. Unfortunately, the rule seems aimed more at protecting industry profits than fish. And in justifying the rule, EPA ...

EPA Appears Poised To Give Troubling Role to Cost-Benefit Analysis In Setting Rules on Power Plant Cooling Water

by Amy Sinden | March 04, 2011
When it comes to the use of cost-benefit analysis in setting environmental rules, it looks like President Obama's EPA has taken a big swig of industry’s Kool-Aid. We'll know for sure soon: The EPA has a March 14 deadline to issue its proposed Clean Water Act rule on cooling water intake structures at existing power plants and other facilities. But all signs seem to be pointing toward a highly formalized cost-benefit analysis resulting in a weak rule – and a ...

EPA Carbon Regulations Clear First Hoop in D.C. Circuit

by Amy Sinden | December 14, 2010
A federal appeals court's decision on Friday refusing to block implementation of EPA’s first limits on carbon pollution from cars, power plants, and factories is good news for inhabitants of planet Earth. A coalition of industry groups, right wing think tanks, and the state of Texas had asked the court to grant a stay blocking EPA’s rules from going into effect while their litigation challenging those rules goes forward.  But a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (including ...

Fifth Circuit's Ruling Puts Next Steps on Cooling Water Regulation and Cost-Benefit Analysis in Hands of Obama EPA -- and OIRA

by Amy Sinden | August 05, 2010
It turns out there’s more than one way an offshore oil rig can kill a fish. Even when they’re not spewing oil into the ocean, oil rigs kill vast numbers of fish and other aquatic organisms in their daily operations by sucking them up into their cooling water intake systems, where they get squashed against screens and otherwise beat up by the mechanism.   Power plants do it too, as does any industrial facility that circulates water for cooling. Congress recognized this problem ...

Also from Amy Sinden

Amy Sinden is the James E. Beasley Professor of Law at the Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and at the Temple-Tsinghua Masters of Law program in Beijing,China. She is a member of the board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform.

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