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Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories of 2020 -- Part II

In my last post, I began counting down the top ten most significant developments affecting regulatory policy and public protections from the past year. This post completes the task. The good news is some of these developments offer some hope on realizing the goals of CPR’s Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. Others, however, suggest that the task of realizing those goals will be an arduous one.

  1. Environmental justice takes its rightful place as a top-tier issue. At the beginning of the year, environmental justice rose to unprecedented prominence thanks to advocacy efforts behind the Green New Deal and the introduction of major environmental justice legislation by Reps. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.). The issue took on greater urgency in May, after the alleged murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. His death, and the ensuing public outcry, focused national attention on systemic racial injustice in the United States.

    Since then, Biden tapped Sen. Kamala Harris, a noted environmental justice champion, as his running mate, and their transition team has made environmental justice a key part of its policy …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This was the year in which many of our worst fears about the Trump administration came to pass. Racial unrest reached a boiling point. The GOP’s attacks on our democracy leading up to and after the election will take decades to fix. And of course, tens of thousands of lives have been needlessly lost to an unprecedented pandemic.

It was an ugly year. Not surprisingly, most of 2020’s top regulatory policy stories were ugly too. In general, policy developments aligned against the goals of CPR’s new Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. The incoming Biden-Harris administration can put us back on the right track, but they have a lot of work ahead of them.

Here are the first five of this year’s 10 most significant developments affecting …

Dec. 17, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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UPDATE: The Senate confirmed Brenda Mallory as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality on April 14, 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden is set to name Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office that coordinates environmental policy across federal agencies. Mallory has more than three decades of environmental law and policy experience, served as CEQ general counsel under President Barack Obama, and is currently director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Though somewhat dormant during Donald Trump's early tenure, CEQ ramped up its attacks on environmental policies and protections during the second half of Trump’s term.

It focused its assault on how agencies review the environmental impacts of their actions. Congress required such environmental review beginning in 1970 with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Whenever an agency funds or issues a permit for a big project …

Dec. 15, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Donald Trump prided himself on his contempt for established norms of presidential action. Whole books have been written about how to restore those norms. Something similar also happened deeper down in the government, out in the agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that do the actual work of governance. Trump appointees have corrupted agencies and trashed the norms that support agency integrity. It will take hard work to undo the harm. White House leadership is important, but success will require dedicated effort by the agency heads appointed by Biden.

Scientific integrity. The role of science is the most obvious example of norm busting under Trump. Whether it is EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Trump …

Dec. 8, 2020 by Laurie Ristino
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Editor’s note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform’s Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR's website.

At long last, we’ve reached “safe harbor” day, when states must resolve election-related disputes. Under federal law, Congress must count votes from states that meet today’s deadline. Donald Trump is essentially out of time to steal a second term; our democracy, it appears, will survive, at least for now.

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about the election — and what Trump’s relentless efforts to undermine it mean for our country. I’ve been thinking about the last one, too, when Trump took the helm of our country after a campaign of lies and hate — even though he received nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.

I’ve been reflecting on other moments when our …

Dec. 7, 2020 by Bill Funk
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This post was originally published by the Yale Journal on Regulation's Notice & Comment blog. Reprinted with permission.

Every President since Jimmy Carter has called on agencies to make retrospective reviews of their regulations. President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866 required agencies to create a program of periodic review of existing significant regulations. More recently both Presidents Obama in E.O. 13563 and Trump in E.O. 13771 likewise have required agencies to engage in retrospective reviews. Numerous commentators, not the least of which is Professor and former OIRA director Cass Sunstein, have extolled the potential value of retrospective reviews. And the Administrative Conference of the United States has issued recommendations providing support for agencies to review their existing regulations. Indeed, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires agencies to make a retrospective review of 10-year-old regulations that “have a significant economic impact upon a substantial number …

Nov. 18, 2020 by James Goodwin, Amy Sinden
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After taking their oaths of office in January, newly minted President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will face a number of daunting challenges: the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn; structural racial and ethnic injustice; widening economic inequality; inadequate access to affordable health care; and climate change. And Congress, facing the prospect of divided control, is unlikely to respond with robust legislative solutions that the American people expect and deserve.

The good news is that Biden and Harris will be able to meet these challenges head on by revitalizing governance and making effective use of the federal regulatory system. Better still, they can do so in a way that delivers justice and equity for all Americans.

Using the regulatory system as a policy tool is not easy under ideal circumstances, let alone during difficult times like these. For the last four years, the Trump administration has …

Nov. 4, 2020 by Laurie Ristino
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American democracy, if it is to mean anything, demands that all eligible voters get to exercise their right to vote and that their votes actually be counted. We have watched with alarm as the former principle has come under unilateral attack from one political party for self-serving reasons in recent weeks. We are outraged to see the president attack the latter.

CPR is committed to meaningful public participation in all of America’s democratic institutions. We believe such participation is essential for ensuring more just and effective policies, but also for imbuing those policies with legitimacy and public confidence. Public participation is critical to empowering all Americans to have their say in our centuries-long project of forming a more perfect union.

As of early this afternoon, the presidential election is still undecided. Millions of votes in states that will ultimately determine the outcome remain uncounted. We join …

Nov. 4, 2020 by David Flores
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The Virginia General Assembly has wrapped a special legislative session to reform the Commonwealth’s budget. The story Virginians often hear is that lawmakers were busy pursuing social justice, spurred on by COVID-driven economic hardships and a historic demand for reforms. However, this story belies the fact that the Assembly failed to pass the meaningful social justice reforms called for by working-class Virginians, while giving away half a billion dollars in customer overcharges to Dominion Energy’s shareholders.

With the climate and COVID crises at the fore, state and local environmental regulation and decision-making has taken on greater weight. As CPR Policy Analyst Katlyn Schmitt points out in a new paper, there is still some low-hanging fruit to be picked before Virginians can be equitably served by and participate in the Commonwealth’s environmental decision-making process.

For one, public notice and comment procedures for proposed environmental rules …

Oct. 29, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This week, I’m posting a new web article documenting the arbitrariness and subjectivity that cost-benefit analysis injects into regulatory decision-making, the latest installment in CPR’s Beyond 12866 initiative. Specifically, the piece explains how cost-benefit analysis deploys a wide variety of methodological techniques that can be clumsy, unscientific, ethically dubious, and, too often, downright absurd. As a result, the “information” that cost-benefit analysis generates is so lacking in credibility and rigor that it is arguably worse than useless. In many cases, agency decision-makers would be better off if the analysis had never been performed at all.

It is particularly important to understand the inescapable subjectivity and irrationality of cost-benefit analysis, since defenders of the methodology like to claim that it is necessary to ensure that objectivity and rationality guide regulatory decision-making. The web article offers several recent case studies unequivocally demonstrating how cost-benefit analysis consistently fails …

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