Jan 24 2021: Deregulators seeing(seething) red

You can expect deregulatory advocates to see red over President Biden’s executive order to “modernize regulatory review, ” which could lead to major changes in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), inside the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

This order asks OMB to develop recommendations that “should provide concrete suggestions on how the regulatory review process can promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.  The recommendations should also include proposals that would ensure that regulatory review serves as a tool to affirmatively promote regulations that advance these values.  These recommendations should be informed by public engagement with relevant stakeholders. “

Decryng that the Biden Administration will put too much emphasis on benefits and not enough costs, expect these voices to get amplified by conservative media. However, the reversals and clamp-downs on benefits was uniquely vicious in the Trump era. If anything, the Biden Adminsitration is simply righting wrongs perpetrated over the past four years.

In the Trump era cost-benefit analyses (CBA), which have long been part of regulatory review, have narrowed and chiefly leaned into the cost side of the equation. We’ve written before about how things like “co-benefits”, e.g., health benefits, were to be ignored in analyzing the benefits side. Just consider what happened in the Mercury Rule. In installing equipment to cut down on mercury, particulate matter (soot) was also reduced with significant health benefits. These, would be excluded, as they were not the intent.

With some minor tuning with each Administration, the CBA process has worked pretty well. Here’s how American Progress describes it: “…whenever an agency has proposed a new federal regulation, it has needed to quantify the costs and benefits to the greatest extent possible, including those that are indirect or ancillary, known as co-costs and co-benefits; analyze the unquantifiable costs and benefits; and put forward a recommended agency action for OIRA to review and approve.”

Nobody likes excessively burdensome regulations but neither should we like forces that inflate costs while simultaneously restricting how reaped benefits can be included.