Regulatory Policy

Regulatory safeguards play a vital role in protecting us from hazards and ensuring that companies that pollute, make unsafe products, and create workplace hazards bear the cost of cleaning up their messes and preventing injuries and deaths. Still, the regulatory system is far from perfect: Rules take too long to develop; enforcement is often feeble; and political pressure from regulated industries has led to weak safeguards.

These systemic problems are made all the more severe by the determination of the Trump administration to undercut sensible safeguards across virtually all aspects of federal regulation. Moreover, the President and his team have taken aim at the the process by which such safeguards are developed, aiming to take a system already slanted in favor of industry profit at the expense of health, safety and the environment, and make it even less protective. For example, where critics of the use of cost-benefit analysis see a system that understates the value of safeguards and overstates the cost of implementing them -- making it difficult to adopt needed protections -- the Trump administration seeks simply to ignore benefits of safeguards, pretending they do not exist. The result is a regulatory system that fails to enforce landmark laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and more.

CPR exposes and opposes efforts by opponents of sensible safeguards to undermine the regulatory system, fighting back against knee-jerk opposition to environmental, health, and safety protections. Below, see what CPR Members Scholars and staff have had to say in reports, testimony, op-eds and more. Use the search box to narrow the list.

Regulatory Government Is Democratic Government

The regulatory system is quite literally democracy in action, as it invites and empowers members of the public to work with their government to implement policies to keep our drinking water free of contaminants, ensure that the food on store shelves is safe to eat, prevent crooked banks from cheating customers, and much, much more. In fact, one of the defining attributes of the federal regulatory system, as the administrative law expert William Funk has noted, is the myriad opportunities it offers for public participation throughout the policy implementation process, from agenda setting to enforcement.

Type: Op-Eds (Feb. 5, 2022)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
The Supreme Court’s Plan to Block Climate Action We Haven’t Even Taken Yet

On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the first of an expected wave of cases challenging governmental action to address the climate crisis. The court’s grant of four petitions seeking review in this case—two by coal companies and two by states—portends that the six conservative justices will erect significant barriers to meaningful climate policy and will continue to interfere with democratic governance in disregard of the rule of law.

Type: Op-Eds (Jan. 25, 2022)
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Author(s): Karen Sokol
Enron's Collapse 20 Years Later -- Lessons Not Learned

In December 2001, the wunderkind energy company Enron collapsed spectacularly, destroying $67 billion in assets held by mutual funds, retirees and individual stock investors. Some commentary 20 years later has focused on how Enron heralded the first of companies making money by “disruption"—even as some of this disruption also led to negative impacts on society. There is no doubt that, like Facebook, even Enron’s legitimate money-making enterprises had some negative spillovers as a side effect of wealth creation by innovation. But the problem isn’t with the idea of seeking innovation or testing disruptive ways of doing things; the problem is that government regulators, then and now, have been starved of their ability to effectively channel market forces and private innovation to wealth creation while avoiding negative externalities. Truly supporting the private sector, innovation, and wealth creation, requires more government regulation, not less.

Type: Op-Eds (Dec. 27, 2021)
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Author(s): Victor Flatt
Testimony to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law on Constructive Reforms to the Administrative Procedure Act

On December 1, CPR Member Scholar Wendy Wagner testified about the need for constructive reforms to the Administrative Procedure Act and the way federal agencies develop public protections for our health, safety, and environment. Wagner presented her testimony to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Dec. 2, 2021)
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Author(s): Wendy Wagner
Stop Corporate Capture Act Would Reform the Way Agencies Develop Key Public Protections

Center for Progressive Reform Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin lauds the Stop Corporate Capture Act and explains how it would reform the way federal agencies develop key public protections.

Type: News Releases (Nov. 30, 2021)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
Joint Letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Modernizing Regulatory Review

The Center for Progressive Reform joined dozens of other organizations in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget, urging it and the Biden administration to get to work on making good on its goals to modernize, improve, and reform the current regulatory review process. That process often results in weaker standards and safeguards than are needed to protect all people and our environment.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Nov. 17, 2021)
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A Legal Pillar of Environmental Justice Is Now Under Attack

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’s wetlands development permit it has to study whatever effects that chemical plant might have on the health of people in that community and on the properties they own. Corporate polluters recognize the power of process, too. For decades, they have waged a stealthy campaign to rig key procedural rules in their favor. Not surprisingly, NEPA is one of the main targets in this campaign. Corporate interests are using fast-moving infrastructure legislation as a vehicle for dismantling crucial procedural safeguards afforded by NEPA, wrongly claiming that the law stands in the way of a green energy grid, expanded mass transit, and other aspects of a green economy.

Type: Op-Eds (Sept. 1, 2021)
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Author(s): James Goodwin, Robert Verchick
Joint Comment to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Updating Public Participation Guidelines

CPR Policy Analyst Katlyn Schmitt joined the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative in a public comment urging the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to update its public participation guidelines. They urged DEQ to ensure meaningful public involvement in the regulatory activities of the state — including the relative state boards that make decisions related to air pollution, water pollution, and waste management.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Aug. 20, 2021)
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Author(s): Katlyn Schmitt
Regulatory Analysis Is Too Important to Be Left to the Economists

The surging COVID-19 delta variant is sending thousands of people to the hospital, killing others, and straining several states' hospital systems to their breaking point. The climate crisis is hurting people, communities and countries as we write this piece, with apocalyptic wildfires, crippling droughts and raging floodwaters. Systemic racism continues unabated, leading to vast economic and environmental injustices. It's beyond time for urgent action, but to get there, the federal government must reform the opaque, biased method it uses to evaluate our nation's public health, economic and environmental protections.

Type: Op-Eds (Aug. 16, 2021)
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Author(s): Sidney Shapiro, Melissa Lutrell
Comment to the U.S. EPA on Preventing Chemical Disasters and Cost-Benefit Analysis

In a comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin urges the agency to use any eventual rulemaking within the Risk Management Program to rework how cost-benefit analysis is used to evaluate rules. Goodwin encourages EPA to work with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to take otherwise unquantifiable benefits into account and maximize protections from chemical disasters.

Type: Letters to Agencies (July 15, 2021)
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Author(s): James Goodwin

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