Blog Post

Highlights from “The Real Outcomes of Federal Environmental Regulations: Lessons from the Performance Data”

Nov 2, 2015 | Shannon Wulf Tregar

On October 21, experts presented the results of RFF’s Regulatory Performance Initiative, a multi-year effort to analyze the actual impacts of a series of regulations issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy, Department of the Interior (DOI), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Below are excerpts from that conversation. A video of the full discussion is also available.


On the estimates of costs and benefits

“There are several studies where average costs and benefits are not uniform, across either resources or the affected people, or other receptors … So this raises questions that there is a great deal of heterogeneity out there in the world … And so going forward, the argument is that there should be greater disaggregation of costs and benefits to reveal diverse effects. And this might lead, in the end, to more tailored rules.” – Richard Morgenstern, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future

On retrospective analysis of new regulations

“In terms of integrating retrospective analysis into new regulations, very few new regulations over the last several years have included any discussion of retrospective analysis. Planning for future retrospective analysis can promote better rule design, and focus data collection afterwards. So OMB in the course of its executive order review of rules ought to be working with the agencies to develop a retrospective analysis plan for high priority rules as part of the final rule” - Arthur G. Fraas, Visiting Fellow, Resources for the Future

On the limits of data

“One of the surprising things to me was how challenging it still is to get really reliable comprehensive data sets to answer these basic questions about what are the actual costs and what are the actual benefits. Some of these studies had to resort to indirect valuation modeling to simulate what appears to be the compliance scenario.” - David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council

On the goals of retrospective analysis

“We want to think harder about the goals of retrospective review. One of the things that is so refreshing about this project is that the underlying goal of this work has not been simply to identify those rules that are counterproductive or not working … I think we have seen in the policy world too much justification for retrospective review as merely a way to find those bad rules, and in this project, what I find refreshing is that it’s agnostic. And that, ultimately, is what I think is the purpose of retrospective review: learning.” - Cary Coglianese, Edward B. Shils Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science; Director, Penn Program on Regulation, University of Pennsylvania Law School