Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET
Big changes may be coming to White House regulatory oversight.
President Biden seems to be poised to dramatically change how the White House reviews proposed agency regulations. I argued in a recent post that it would be better to expand the focus of regulatory review beyond cost-benefit analysis to include important values such as social justice and environmental quality. Biden may be moving in that direction.
Since Reagan took office, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has reviewed the cost-benefit analyses submitted for all significant proposed regulations. Progressives have never bought the idea of OIRA as the technocratic guardian of value-neutral economic analysis. This is partly because they view cost-benefit analysis as inherently biased against regulation, and partly because they view OIRA as a backdoor for industry lobbying.
There are several signs that Biden is reconsidering OIRA’s intense focus on cost-benefit analysis. One of his executive orders establishes a task to modernize regulatory review. He instructed the task force to 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 executive order emphasizes the need to ensure that “regulatory initiatives appropriately benefit and do not inappropriately burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities.” This dovetails with another executive order that attempts to reorient agencies toward social justice issues. But economics is still in the picture, as shown by an executive order requiring the government to establish a new estimate of the social cost of carbon.
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