Project Updates

  • Monday
    December 8th,
    2014

    Policy Integrity Helps Reform Federal Rulemaking Petition Process

    Individuals have the right to petition federal agencies to issue, amend, or repeal regulations, but agencies lack a uniform process for handling these petitions. Policy Integrity recently worked with the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process, to create new guidelines for the petition process. In early December, ACUS adopted new recommendations for federal agencies, based on Policy Integrity’s research and suggestions.

    This effort began in early 2014 when Policy Integrity proposed that ACUS update its investigation of petitions for rulemaking. ACUS agreed and retained Policy Integrity as a consultant on the project. The Policy Integrity team, led by legal director Jason Schwartz, then began a series of interviews with key government officials on agency practices with respect to petitions, and authored a report and a series of recommendations. Our recommendations include: the enhanced use of online platforms to educate the public; the facilitation of consultations with petitioners before and after submission; the creation of public comment periods for all petitions; the collection of statistics on agency petitions; and the establishment of default timelines for responses. ACUS issued its adopted recommendations on December 5th.

    Policy Integrity is now conducting outreach to various federal agencies to encourage their adoption of the approved recommendations. We conducted an initial meeting with the Inspector General of the EPA, and other meetings will soon follow.

    Issue(s): Transparency   Type: Petitions

  • Monday
    December 1st,
    2014

    EPA’s Clean Power Plan - Public Comments

    In Policy Integrity’s recently submitted public comments on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, we make the case that the EPA’s flexible, cost-minimizing approach to setting performance standards for existing power plants is consistent with over 30 years of EPA Clean Air Act practice, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. While opponents of the Clean Power Plan have argued that the EPA is taking unprecedented and unwarranted steps to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, we show that the plan is deeply rooted in precedent.

    Our comments discuss the many historical antecedents to the elements of the plan that opponents have criticized: the EPA’s use of statewide limits on emissions rates when the statute refers to limits on sources; the fact that this rule could shift the balance of fuels used to produce electricity; the use of demand-side energy efficiency measures in analysis of how states can meet the requirements of the Act; the use of performance standards to existing sources that are regulated under hazardous air standards; and the accounting for co-benefits, such as the reductions in harmful particulate matter that will occur in tandem with greenhouse gas reductions, in the rule’s cost-benefit analysis.

    We also address why the EPA’s approach is preferable to a strict, technology-based standard, and suggest some ways in which the EPA could make the program even more efficient.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment   Type: Public Comments

  • Tuesday
    October 7th,
    2014

    Public Comments on Net Metering in Wisconsin

    Wisconsin is one of more than 40 states with a “net metering” law that allows solar-powered households to sell some of the electricity they generate back into the grid for a fixed price. The Wisconsin Electric Power Company and Wisconsin Gas LLC recently proposed changes to their net metering rates, arguing in part that the rates force them to fund additional grid maintenance and modernization without appropriate compensation. However, the current rates also do not account for the climate and public health benefits from distributed solar generation.

    Policy Integrity submitted comments to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, arguing that both the positive and negative externalities of distributed solar generation should be considered when determining net metering rates. Specifically, we suggest that the Commission should:

    • Adjust the proposed net metering rate to include the health and environmental benefits
      associated with the avoided greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and emissions of local
      pollutants;
    • Adjust the proposed net metering rate to include the value of the net impact of distributed
      solar generation on the local grid; and
    • Consider regulatory reforms to better achieve Wisconsin’s energy goals.

    The full comments are available here.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment   Type: Public Comments

  • Friday
    September 26th,
    2014

    Oil Train Safety - Public Comments

    Driven by growth in the production of oil in the U.S. and Canada, there has been a significant increase in rail transportation of crude oil over the past five years, with a corresponding increase in the number of accidents. Many oil trains pass through sensitive environmental habitats and densely populated areas, and even share track with commuter trains in some regions.

    In 2013, more oil spilled from U.S. trains than in the previous four decades combined. These crude-by-rail accidents have resulted in serious damage to the environment as well as fatalities; 47 people died in the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec accident.

    Policy Integrity recently submitted public comments on proposed enhanced tank car standards and operational controls for “High-Hazard Flammable Trains” to the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

    In the interest of better protecting public safety and maximizing net benefits from the proposed rule, we suggest that the agency:

    • Explain the rationale for its selected timeline and alternatives, and consider additional options that would increase safety, such as phasing-out DOT-111 cars on an accelerated timeline;
    • Improve its calculation of costs and benefits by using the best available data, and fully account for co-benefits and countervailing risks;
    • Provide more detailed guidance on how to perform train routing analysis to maximize net benefits;
    • Collaborate with states to increase compliance with federal regulations; and
    • Collect more accurate data on accident causes, and continuously improve safety standards.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment   Type: Public Comments

  • Friday
    September 12th,
    2014

    Livermore Argues Offshore Leasing Case in DC Circuit Court

    The government’s offshore leasing system fails to account for uncertainties about environmental harms—the system ignores “option value,” a well-established economic technique that quantifies the value of delaying decisions to acquire crucial information. As a result, the current leasing system leads to over-exploitation of natural resources and excessive environmental risk.

    A current lawsuit is challenging the use of this flawed economic analysis in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) 2012-2017 leasing plan for the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan coast.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard the oral argument in Center for Sustainable Economy v. Jewell on September 11th. Policy Integrity senior advisor Michael Livermore represented the plaintiff, arguing that BOEM must consider option value to make the leasing system economically fair. The case could have significant implications for all government natural resource leasing programs. A ruling is expected in the coming months.

    The opening brief for the case is available here and the reply brief is available here. Audio of the oral argument is available here.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment