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Nov. 4, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Major Questions About the Major Questions Doctrine

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Unless you're deeply immersed in administrative law, you may not have heard of the major questions doctrine. It's a legal theory that conservative judges have used with increasing rigor to block important regulatory initiatives. The doctrine places special obstacles on agency regulation of issues of "major economic and political significance."

In its initial outing, the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) couldn't regulate tobacco without a clear congressional mandate. Most recently, it has applied the doctrine in striking down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. It now seems poised to do so in a case involving EPA's power to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Unfortunately, there are a host of major questions about the doctrine's legal scope that the conservative Court has never resolved. Here are just a few of them:

What's the effect of holding something to be a major question? Sometimes, the Court has said that if a statute is ambiguous about a major question, the Court will decide the question for itself rather than deferring to the …

Oct. 28, 2021 by Minor Sinclair
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Our society has finally reached a turning point on climate.

I’m not referring to the “point of irreversibility” about which the United Nations warns us: In nine short years, the cascading impacts of climate change will trigger more and greater impacts to the point of no return.

Rather, we have reached the turning point of political will for climate action. There is no going back to climate passivity or denialism. Choosing to electrify and greenify is a progressive agenda, a mainstream agenda, and an industry agenda though all of these agendas differ.

Reconciling these interests, Congress will pass one, if not two, major spending bills this fall, which would invest as much as $750 billion in climate investments to decarbonize, electrify, and build resilient infrastructure. This achievement is not the Green New Deal, nor the full vision of the Sunrise Movement, but it borrows parts from …

Oct. 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Cost-benefit analysis is required for all major regulations. It's also highly controversial, as well as being a mysterious procedure unless you're an economist. These FAQs will tell you what you need to know about how cost-benefit analysis (CBA) fits into the regulatory process, how it works, and why it's controversial.

Q: Let's start with a basic question. Exactly what is cost-benefit analysis?

A: The term cost-benefit analysis is sometimes used to mean any comparison of pros and cons, which is something we all do every day in ordinary life. For present purposes, though, it means a very rigorous way of balancing pros and cons, using economic analysis to quantify the costs and benefits of an action. Basically, everything gets converted into dollar equivalents in this process.

Q: Why do agencies conduct cost-benefit analyses?

A: A few …

Oct. 19, 2021 by Amy Sinden
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

In the actual work of crafting the regulatory safeguards that protect our environment and health, cost-benefit analysis has been largely ineffectual and irrelevant. Indeed, its ineffectiveness has been so profound as to prompt even its most ardent practitioners and proponents to question whether it has any impact on agency decisions at all. Meanwhile, it plays at best a minor role in the legal standards that actually govern agency decision-making. Despite all this, a certain cost-benefit orthodoxy has become remarkably entrenched in environmental policy circles. Especially in an era when so many progressive ideas are in ascendance, why does the idea of regulatory review based on CBA, first brought to us half a century ago by the two Ronalds—Ronald Coase and Ronald Reagan—have …

Oct. 14, 2021 by James Goodwin
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

Over the last 40 years, the U.S. regulatory system has played an increasingly influential role in redefining our political and economic relationships in fundamentally neoliberal terms. A key but often overlooked institutional force behind this development is the peculiar form of cost-benefit analysis that now predominates in regulatory practice. Building a new regulatory system befitting our vision of a post-neoliberal America requires a formal rejection of prevailing cost-benefit analysis in favor of a radically different approach—one that invites public participation, permits open and fair contestation of competing values at the heart of policy debates, and recognizes and honors our social interdependencies.

The predominant form of cost-benefit analysis—one embraced by neoliberals—finds its theoretical underpinning in the controversial ideology of welfare economics …

Oct. 11, 2021 by Melissa Lutrell, Jorge Roman-Romero
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is inherently classist, racist, and ableist. Since these are foundational problems with CBA, and are not simply issues with its implementation, they can never be fixed by mere methodological improvements. Instead, the ongoing modernization of centralized regulatory analyses must focus on "moving beyond" CBA, and not on fixing it or improving it. Thus, in implementing President Biden's memorandum on Modernizing Regulatory Review (the Biden Memorandum), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should make explicit that regulatory review no longer requires CBA, even—as will be true in the typical case—when regulatory review does demand economic analysis as part of a holistic, multi-factor regulatory impact analysis.

The Biden memorandum endorses a series of goals that are not premised in the …

Oct. 1, 2021 by Robin Kundis Craig
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This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Mississippi v. Tennessee is not only the Supreme Court’s first oral argument of the 2021-22 term, but it is also the first time that states have asked the court to weigh in on how they should share an interstate aquifer. The court’s decision could fundamentally restructure interstate groundwater law in the United States for decades — or the case could be dismissed immediately on the grounds that Mississippi has failed to allege the proper cause of action.

The case will be argued on Monday, and it will be the court’s first in-person argument in a year and a half. In March 2020, the justices stopped meeting in person due to the coronavirus pandemic, and since then, all arguments have been conducted by phone. But the justices are returning to …

Sept. 30, 2021 by Clarissa Libertelli
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Hurricane season hit Maryland hard this year, and even as it comes to a close, heavy rains continue to cause highway shutdowns and spread toxic floodwater. With the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) currently updating its rules and permits regarding stormwater, Marylanders have an opportunity to protect their communities against one of the most pernicious problems climate change poses for the region. 

Stormwater pollution occurs when heavy rain or snow is not absorbed by the ground due to oversaturated soil or impervious surfaces. The runoff sometimes reaches dangerous volumes, turning roadways into rivers and causing flash floods.

It also pollutes our environment: When runoff flows over rooftops, streets, and storm sewers, it collects trash, chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and other toxic and harmful substances that are carried into our waterways. Along the way, the polluted water passes through communities, evaporating and coating the surrounding environment with toxins …

Sept. 30, 2021 by Lisa Heinzerling
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

President Biden has made climate change and racial justice central themes of his presidency. No doubt with these problems in mind, he has signaled a desire to rethink the process and substance of White House review of agencies' regulatory actions. On his very first day in office, Biden ordered administrative agencies to ensure that this review does not squelch regulatory initiatives nor brush aside "racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations." At the same time, however, Biden reaffirmed the "basic principles" of a Clinton-era executive order on White House regulatory review, subjecting agencies' major rules to a cost-benefit test.

These twin inclinations – toward acting boldly on climate change and racial justice, and toward judging regulation using cost-benefit …

Sept. 29, 2021 by M. Isabelle Chaudry
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A recent Maryland law requires the state's Commissioner of Labor and Industry, in consultation with its Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board, to develop and adopt regulations that require employers to protect employees from heat-related illness caused by heat stress. Those standards are due by October 2022.

The law also requires the state to hold four public meetings to collect input from residents. This month, the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Division (MOSH) scheduled those meetings, and I testified at the September 20 session.

As I stated during the hearing, CPR is pleased that Maryland will issue a standard requiring employers to protect workers from heat-related illnesses this session. I and other advocates urged MOSH to address the dangers of working in the heat and the immediate need for the standard.

As noted in my testimony, farmworkers are predominantly Black and brown, and many are from Indigenous …

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