Project Updates

  • Wednesday
    March 4th,
    2015

    Supreme Court Brief for Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Case

    The Supreme Court will soon hear a challenge to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (commonly known as the MATS rule). Policy Integrity has submitted an amicus brief in support of the EPA for this case.

    The case focuses on whether the EPA unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities. As our brief argues, the MATS rule reflects the EPA’s rational consideration of costs and benefits during the appropriate phase of the rulemaking process, consistent with statutory design, federal executive orders, case law, longstanding regulatory precedents, and analytical best practices.

    The MATS rule is massively cost-benefit justified, delivering tens of billions of dollars in net benefits each year, including thousands of lives saved annually plus other significant health and environmental improvements. When all direct and indirect effects are quantified, this rule’s monetized benefits (independent of any existing air quality standards) range from $37–$90 billion per year, substantially outweighing the $9.7 billion in costs. The EPA followed standard best practices in its economic analysis, as was confirmed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. For these and other reasons, our brief argues that Court should affirm the judgment of the court of appeals and uphold the MATS rule.

    The Court will hear oral argument for this case on March 25th.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment   Type: Amicus Briefs

  • Monday
    February 2nd,
    2015

    Policy Integrity Files Brief in Case Challenging EPA’s Clean Power Plan

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will soon hear the first set of cases challenging President Obama’s signature climate change initiative—the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. We recently filed an amicus brief for West Virginia v. EPA, one of the cases challenging the as-yet unfinalized regulation.

    The case focuses on whether the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants in the face of the uncertainty about the content of Clean Air Act section 111(d), due to the different House and Senate amendments to the provision passed in 1990.

    Our brief addresses two main points:

    • Ever since Section 111(d) was amended in 1990, the EPA has consistently, over 25 years and through administrations of both parties, interpreted the provision in ways that would support the agency’s ability to issue a flexible pollution regulation like the Clean Power Plan.
    • Petitioners’ reading of Section 111(d) could prevent the agency from using that section’s flexible compliance mechanisms, which could force the agency to use other command-and-control style regulations that impose higher costs.

    The brief can be found here.

    Oral argument will take place on April 16.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment   Type: Amicus Briefs

  • Wednesday
    January 28th,
    2015

    Victory at Sea: New Offshore Leasing Program Begins to Adopt Policy Integrity Recommendations

    Policy Integrity’s multi-year effort to make the government account for “option value” in its natural resource leasing decisions has begun to pay off. In its new proposal for offshore oil and gas leasing from 2017-2022, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) devotes 12 pages to option value and related resource valuation concepts, which will now be considered in leasing decisions. Much of this language closely resembles the arguments Policy Integrity has made to the agency repeatedly since 2009.

    Policy Integrity has long argued that incomplete and flawed economic analysis leads the government to sell resource leases too quickly and too cheaply, potentially costing the American public hundreds of billions of dollars. We have suggested that government agencies engaged in leasing decisions should consider option value—a financial concept widely used in markets that places value on delaying irreversible decisions until more information is available. The language of BOEM’s proposed plan suggests that option value considerations could likely raise the minimum bids for lease sales and delay leasing in sensitive areas. However, BOEM has still failed to quantify option value, so Policy Integrity will continue to push for major improvements in the final plan.

    Our work on this issue began in 2009, when Policy Integrity sent comments to the Minerals Management Service (the precursor to BOEM at the Department of the Interior) requesting that the agency incorporate option value into its assessments of offshore drilling lease sales. Those comments later formed the basis for an article by Michael Livermore in the Colorado Law Review, “Patience is an Economic Virtue: Real Options, Natural Resources, and Offshore Oil.” Policy Integrity is also serving as counsel for the Center for Sustainable Economy in a lawsuit against BOEM. The case, Center for Sustainable Economy v. Jewell, focuses on BOEM’s 2012-2017 leasing plan for the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan coast. In September 2014, Michael Livermore represented the Center at oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A ruling is expected soon, and the case could have significant implications for all government natural resource leasing programs.

    Issue(s): Energy and Environment  

  • Friday
    December 19th,
    2014

    Energy Conservation Standards - Public Comments

    Policy Integrity has submitted comments to the Department of Energy, encouraging DOE to improve its economic justification for a proposed energy efficiency determination. DOE has determined that energy conservation standards for mercury vapor and metal halide high-­intensity discharge lamps are not “economically justified” as required by statute, even though such standards could save up to 1.6 quadrillion British thermal units of energy. By reducing electricity demand at and pollution from fossil fuel­-fired power plants, such energy savings would generate environmental and health benefits. However, at no point in DOE’s documentation does the agency discuss environmental and health benefits as part of its analysis of “economic justification” and “national impact.”

    The failure to consider these benefits is inconsistent with the agency’s practice in prior energy efficiency rulemakings. Given that the agency has a readily available methodology for quantifying and monetizing some of the key environmental and health benefits generated by energy savings, we suggest that the final determination should include such quantified benefits, whether or not they would change DOE’s final determination on whether the standards are cost-benefit justified.

    Our full comments are available here.

    .

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

  • 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