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July 27, 2022 by James Goodwin

Op-Ed: Manchin and the Supreme Court Told Biden to Modernize Regulatory Review — Will He Listen?

This op-ed was originally published in The Hill, and the full version is available on the paper's website. It was published before Sens. Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer announced their deal on the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Biden administration’s path forward on climate change — as the widely deployed metaphor goes — has become more difficult with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) apparent veto of a reconciliation package that contains climate measures. If the Biden administration is to successfully navigate that path — and it must if we are to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis — the president will need to abandon the “compass” that his predecessors have relied on for decades to guide their policy agenda: Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Planning and Review.

First issued in 1994, the executive order empowers a small White House bureau called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to review and approve agencies’ biggest or most controversial rules. The order further requires OIRA to evaluate those rules using a methodology called “cost-benefit analysis,” which is highly biased against protective safeguards and provides convenient cover …

June 29, 2022 by Shelley Welton, James Goodwin
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This op-ed was originally published by The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

These days, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can no longer be described as a technocratic, under-the-radar agency that sets policies on energy infrastructure and market rules, rates, and standards.

As energy policy has become front-page news — driven by climate change and recent price volatility — FERC has begun updating its regulations to meet new exigencies. The agency has taken big steps this spring to support affordability and a transition to cleaner energy, including proposing updates to the way it permits natural gas pipelines and beginning to overhaul how regions plan and pay for the expansion of electricity transmission infrastructure.

These moves have provoked controversy because their stakes are high: Billions of dollars of infrastructure expenditures are on the table. What gets built, who pays, who hosts this infrastructure, and who makes …

June 23, 2022 by James Goodwin
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Any high school student can tell you that water follows the path of least resistance. A similar rule might be said to apply to corporate polluters and small government ideologues who now see the federal judiciary — especially a U.S. Supreme Court stocked with Trump-era judicial activists — as the path of least resistance in pursuing their agenda of the "deconstruction of the administrative state." The first case they have teed up for the October session of oral arguments is Sackett v. EPA, which the Court could use to gut the Clean Water Act.

Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar William Buzbee is helping lead the defense of this bedrock environmental law. Working with the Georgetown Law Center's Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, Buzbee authored an amicus brief for members of Congress who support a strong Clean Water Act. In all, 167 members of Congress signed on …

April 27, 2022 by James Goodwin
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Few policy questions have a more profound impact on our day-to-lives than how we produce, transport, and use energy. Whether it’s a fight against the siting of a polluting natural gas facility in a historically Black community, the catastrophic failure of an electric grid following a winter storm, foreign wars causing price shocks that further hollow out the fixed incomes of America’s older adults, or an abiding concern over leaving our grandchildren a habitable climate — all these issues and more make energy policy a central concern for the public.

Despite this broad-based and deep concern, the public remains largely excluded from participating in the development of energy policy — much less shaping it. Instead, corporate insiders still retain outsized influence over the energy policymaking process, leaving policymakers with a skewed perspective on issues they address through regulation, which ultimately undermines the quality and legitimacy of those …

March 29, 2022 by James Goodwin
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This op-ed was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

The regulatory system, contrary to the claims of its conservative critics, is an indispensable part of the broader civic infrastructure on which our democracy is built. Significantly, the ability to exercise voting rights—the most visible and potent act of civic engagement—necessitates a stronger and more inclusive regulatory system.

Effective civic engagement is a skill that requires practice to develop and maintain, not unlike playing piano or speaking a foreign language. This reality is especially true of voting, which involves more than just turning out for elections. Discerning voters must understand the issues at stake, demand high-quality candidates, and monitor public officials' performance to hold them accountable.

Observers of the United States' constitutional system of governance have long praised the wide variety of social institutions that allow us to hone our civic engagement skills …

Feb. 10, 2022 by James Goodwin
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When the conservative movement contrived to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues, one of the goals was to create a powerful ally in its campaign to dismantle the federal regulatory system, which we all depend on every day to safeguard our families, communities, and environment. With its recent decision in the emergency vaccine-or-test case, the Court’s conservative supermajority gave its clearest signal yet that it will advance this campaign from the bench.

The unsigned majority opinion and the concurrence authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, when read together, lay out a comprehensive blueprint for defeating regulation in the public interest. Significantly, the arguments they raise are firmly grounded in the long-standing conservative myth that the regulatory system lacks sufficient “democratic accountability.” Quoting the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the concurrence casts the stakes in stark terms, warning …

Dec. 2, 2021 by Minor Sinclair, James Goodwin
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This blog post is the second in a series outlining the Center for Progressive Reform’s new strategic direction. We published "A Turning Point on Climate" in October.

Watch a 2-minute video from James Goodwin as he explains the regulatory system in an approachable and lighthearted way.

Over the last four decades, small government ideologues have waged a coordinated attack against government. The strategy has paid off: Public approval ratings of all three branches of government are at all-time lows.

Nevertheless, the federal government still manages to get things done on a day-to-day basis, and that is primarily due to the so-called 4th branch of government — the administrative and regulatory state that employs 2 million workers, invests trillions of dollars each year on things like air pollution monitoring and cutting-edge clean energy research, and makes rules that protect us all.

This is not to say …

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 …

Sept. 2, 2021 by James Goodwin, Robert Verchick
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This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

A few weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers made a startling announcement: It would give Sharon Lavigne and her neighbors in St. James Parish, La., a chance to tell their stories. The fact one of the world’s largest chemical companies has fought for years to keep Lavigne quiet tells you how commanding her stories are. Those stories may stop this particular company from building a multi-billion dollar chemical plant surrounding her neighborhood.

For this, we can thank a simple law, signed by President Nixon in 1970, called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Unlike other environmental laws, NEPA doesn’t tell agencies what choices they must make — like where to erect a levee or whether to permit a plastics plant. But it does insist their choices be informed. So, before the Army Corps can approve a company …

July 21, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The Biden administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently seeking public input on its efforts to revamp an important Clean Air Act program called the Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule for facilities that produce, store, or use large amounts of dangerous chemicals. It is meant to prevent catastrophes — like the 2017 Arkema explosion in Crosby, Texas — which not only put human lives and health in danger (especially for the communities of color that are disproportionately overrepresented in the shadows of these facilities), but also cause costly disruption for local economies.

My CPR colleagues contributed to a timely new policy brief explaining how the EPA must be particularly attentive to the new and unique threats posed by climate change as it goes about revamping its RMP rule to prevent "double disasters" that will become increasingly common unless chemical facilities are forced to take preventative action. They presented the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 27, 2022

Op-Ed: Manchin and the Supreme Court Told Biden to Modernize Regulatory Review — Will He Listen?

June 29, 2022

The Revelator Op-Ed: Regulators Have a Big Chance to Advance Energy Equity

June 23, 2022

Member Scholar Buzbee Leads Congressional Amicus in Crucial Supreme Court Clean Water Act Case

April 27, 2022

New Report: Democratizing Our Regulatory System Is More Important Than Ever. Can FERC Lead the Way?

March 29, 2022

Safeguarding the Right to Vote Through a Strong Regulatory System

Feb. 10, 2022

Washington Monthly Op-Ed: Regulatory Government Is Democratic Government

Dec. 2, 2021

Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government