How Well Are Our Environmental Laws Working? Retrospective Analysis of Federal Environmental Regulation
Presenting retrospective analyses on the Clean Air Act and other past environmental regulations
There has long been bipartisan interest in understanding how well US laws and regulations are working to achieve their intended purposes. A credible look back at past performance—referred to as retrospective, or ex-post, analysis—can help document the extent to which regulatory benefits have been realized, and at what cost. Such analyses can also illuminate any unintended consequences of regulation, e.g., adverse outcomes for certain populations or enhancement of market power. These retrospective studies are also critical in supporting future innovation in regulatory design.
Prospective, or ex-ante, analyses—more commonly known as regulatory impact analyses, or RIAs—are now routinely conducted for major new regulations. As Michael Greenstone noted a decade ago, however, RIAs are developed at the “point when the least is known.” Retrospective analyses are done after a regulation is in place, allowing the measurement of its actual effects. But many challenges impede the routine conduct of retrospective analysis of federal environmental rules. Thus, consistent measurements of actual outcomes, based on quasi-experimental or other modern methods, are extremely limited.
Given the challenges, how do we advance what we know about how well our laws (particularly our environmental laws) are working? Resources for the Future (RFF) has been leading a two-year effort to help answer this question. A distinguished set of researchers presented findings from that work on Monday, September 16—primarily focused on Clean Air Act rules—highlighting the economic and institutional issues associated with conducting retrospective analysis, while also suggesting areas for improvement.
When: Monday, September 16, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Where: Resources & Conservation Center, 1400 16th St., NW, Washington, DC, 20036
Welcome & Introduction
- 9:00 a.m.–9:05 a.m. Welcome from Richard G. Newell
- 9:05 a.m.–9:15 a.m. Introductory remarks from Richard Morgenstern
Presentation & Panels
“What Have We Learned About Environmental Regulation from Studies of the Clean Air Act?”
Authors: Joseph Aldy, Maximilian Auffhammer, Maureen Cropper, Arthur Fraas, and Richard Morgenstern
Presenters: Joseph Aldy and Maureen Cropper
Discussants: Richard Schmalensee, Ted Gayer, Howard Shelanski, and Nathaniel Keohane
- 9:15 a.m.–10:00 a.m. Presentation
- 10:00 a.m.–10:45 a.m. Discussion
- 10:45 a.m.–11:00 a.m. Audience Q&A
- 11:00 a.m.–11:15 a.m. Coffee Break
“A Review of Retrospective Cost Analyses of EPA Regulations”
Authors and Presenters: Arthur Fraas, Elizabeth Kopits, and Ann Wolverton
Discussants: Al McGartland, Terry Dinan, and Dominic Mancini
- 11:15 a.m.–11:45 a.m. Presentation
- 11:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Discussion
- 12:15 p.m.–12:30 p.m. Audience Q&A
- 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. Lunch
“Institutional Dimensions of Retrospective Analysis of Regulation”
Authors and Presenters: Lori Bennear and Jonathan Wiener
Discussants: Sally Katzen, Susan Dudley, and Jeffrey Holmstead
- 1:30 p.m.–2:00 p.m. Presentation
- 2:00 p.m.–2:30 p.m. Discussion
- 2:30 p.m.–2:45 p.m. Audience Q&A
- 2:45 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Coffee Break
- 4:15 p.m.–4:30 p.m. A discussion of next steps with Richard Morgenstern and Arthur Fraas
- 4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m. Reception
Joseph E. Aldy
Joe Aldy is a university fellow at RFF and professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. His research focuses on climate change policy, energy policy, and mortality risk evaluation.
George Pardee Jr. Professor of International Sustainable Development, UC Berkeley
Juli Plant Grainger Associate Professor of Energy Economics and Policy, Duke University
Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow
Dallas Burtraw is the Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow at RFF. Burtraw’s research includes analysis of the distributional and regional consequences of climate policy and the evolution of electricity markets, including renewables integration.
Maureen L. Cropper
Maureen Cropper is a a senior fellow at RFF, professor of economics at the University of Maryland, a member of the Board of Directors at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Senior Advisor, Congressional Budget Office
Director, GW Regulatory Studies Center & Distinguished Professor, George Washington University
Arthur G. Fraas
Arthur Fraas is a visiting fellow at Resources for the Future. At RFF, Fraas works on a variety of issues related to energy and the environment, including projects looking at issues and tradeoffs with energy efficiency regulations, and more.
Jeffrey R. Holmstead
Member, RFF President's Council; Partner, Bracewell
Jeff Holmstead is a member of RFF President's Council and Partner at Bracewell. He served as the former assistant administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Air and Radiation.
Co-Chair, RFF President's Council; Professor of Law, New York University
Member, RFF Board of Directors; Professor of Law, New York University
Senior Economist, US Environmental Protection Agency
Josh Linn is a senior fellow at RFF. His research centers on the effects of environmental policies and economic incentives for new technologies in the transportation, electricity, and industrial sectors.
Deputy Administrator, Office of Management and Budget
NCEE Director, US Environmental Protection Agency
Richard D. Morgenstern
Richard Morgenstern is a senior fellow at RFF. His research focuses on the economic analysis of environmental issues with an emphasis on the costs, benefits, evaluation, and design of environmental policies.
Richard G. Newell
President and CEO, Resources for the Future
Dr. Richard G. Newell is the President and CEO of Resources for the Future. From 2009 to 2011, he served as the administrator of the US Energy Information Administration, the agency responsible for official US government energy statistics and analysis.
Chair Emeritus, RFF Board of Directors; Professor and Dean Emeritus, MIT
Richard Schmalensee is a chair emeritus of the RFF Board of Directors and an expert in energy and environmental policy.
Jonathan B. Wiener
Jonathan Wiener is a university fellow at RFF and is an expert on US, European, and international environmental law and risk regulation
Senior Research Economist, US Environmental Protection Agency
RFF Live — May 19, 2023
Unplugging Emissions: Exploring New EPA Rules on Climate and Health
An RFF Live event examining three recent proposed and final rules on power-sector emissions from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Journal Article — Mar 15, 2022
Looking Back at 50 Years of the Clean Air Act
An article coauthored by several RFF scholars in the Journal of Economic Literature looks back at the contributions of the Clean Air Act to the vast air quality improvements seen since 1970.
RFF Live — Mar 22, 2022
Climate Change and the Supreme Court
Examining US court cases that will play a large role in determining the future of US climate policy and environmental regulation