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April 27, 2022 by James Goodwin

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

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 regulations. Worse still, the voices that are systematically excluded often speak for structurally marginalized communities, which reinforces broader societal and racial injustice.

Fortunately, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — which oversees much of the country’s energy infrastructure and helps set rules, rates, and standards for energy markets — is undertaking new efforts to …

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 …

July 6, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The White House is asking for input on how the federal government can advance equity and better support underserved groups. As a policy analyst who has studied the federal regulatory system for more than a dozen years, I have some answers — and I submitted them today. My recommendations focus on the White House rulemaking process and offer the Biden administration a comprehensive blueprint for promoting racial justice and equity through agencies’ regulatory decision-making.

To put it bluntly, the U.S. regulatory system is racist.

Key institutions and procedures throughout the rulemaking process contribute to structural racism in our society, resulting in policies that exacerbate racial injustice and inequity. We can’t have truly equitable regulatory policy unless and until these features of the regulatory system are reformed or eliminated.

To make good on its promise to advance equity, the Biden administration must overhaul two interrelated components of …

June 10, 2021 by James Goodwin
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Political Interference from White House Regulatory Office May Have Played a Role

The Labor Department’s emergency COVID standard, released today, is too limited and weak to effectively protect all workers from the ongoing pandemic. The workers left at greatest risk are people of color and the working poor.

Workers justifiably expected an enforceable general industry standard to protect them from COVID-19, and the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has been calling for such a standard since June 2020. But what emerged after more than six weeks of closed-door White House review was a largely unenforceable voluntary guidance document, with only health care workers receiving the benefit of an enforceable standard.

The interference with the COVID standard by the White House regulatory office, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), sends the wrong signal about the Biden administration's commitment to improving the regulatory review process, which …

June 9, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In addition to cleaning up our environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must also clean up the mess the Trump administration left behind.

The Biden EPA recently took an important step in this direction by finalizing its plan to rescind a Trump-era rule that would drastically overhaul how it analyzes the rules it develops to implement the Clean Air Act. If implemented, Trump's "benefits-busting" rule would have sabotaged the effective and timely implementation of this popular and essential law, which protects the public from dangerous pollution that worsens asthma and causes other diseases. The rescission is slated to take effect next week.

On June 9, the EPA held a public hearing to gather feedback on rescinding the rule, which CPR has been tracking for several years. CPR Member Scholars Rebecca Bratspies and Amy Sinden joined me in testifying in support.

A New and Better Approach …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
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

Oct. 14, 2021

A Post-Neoliberal Regulatory Analysis for a Post-Neoliberal World

Sept. 2, 2021

The Hill Op-Ed: A Legal Pillar of Environmental Justice Is Now Under Attack

July 21, 2021

Biden Said He Wants to 'Modernize Regulatory Review.' The EPA's Chemical Disaster Rule is a Great Place to Start.