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Recent Projects

  • Justifying Redistributive Regulations Cover

    Justifying Redistributive Regulations

    Congress often relies on agencies to fill in the details of its transfer programs with regulations, such as those setting eligibility criteria for healthcare, housing, and nutritional assistance. This Article uses three recent rulemakings to illustrate how conventional cost-benefit analysis tends to obscure rather than illuminate agencies’ (often distributional) reasons for issuing such transfer regulations—generating unnecessary legal risk for the agencies and unnecessary confusion for the public. The Article then explains why recently proposed revisions to White House guidance on cost-benefit analysis—including the introduction of an analytic technique called income-based distributional weighting—will not fully resolve this problem. Finally, the Article recommends a new analytic framework for transfer regulations that recognizes the particular relevance of distributional concerns to their promulgation and the distinct challenges of assessing their net benefits.

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  • Comments to EPA on GHG Regulations for Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

    In May 2023, EPA proposed a package of regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. This proposal included revisions to strengthen the limits for new gas fired-plants and to establish limits for existing coal-fired plants and some of the largest, existing gas-fired plants. To determine the stringency of these limits, EPA identified “best systems of emission reduction” (BSERs). In our comments we explain how EPA’s has selected BSERs that are traditional in scope and consistent with the legal pathway left intact by the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA. We also recommend that EPA strengthen the design of the rule to ensure it best fulfills its goal to reduce GHG emissions, which endanger public health and welfare, in a manner that avoids creating perverse incentives.

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  • Regional Planning for Just and Reasonable Rates Cover

    Regional Planning for Just and Reasonable Rates

    Reforming Gas Pipeline Review

    Natural gas plays an outsized role in the U.S. economy. Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) is responsible for overseeing the orderly development of interstate natural gas pipelines, which facilitate the transmission of natural gas throughout the country. FERC can approve the pipeline only if it finds that it is required by the “public convenience and necessity.” Although FERC should consider a range of factors to determine whether a pipeline will serve the public interest, in practice, it looks primarily to the contracts between a developer and its customers for the purchase of pipeline capacity. If a developer can demonstrate that there is a party willing to pay to use its pipeline, FERC rarely asks questions and almost always finds “public” need. This pipeline-by-pipeline approach to natural gas transmission build-out leads to the construction of unnecessary, underused pipelines, which in turn increases ratepayer costs and decreases consumer welfare. Climate change further increases the risk that pipelines will become obsolete as cities and states move toward electrification. Relying on economic theory, legal history, and policy analysis, we make the case for FERC’s adoption of regional gas transmission planning. 

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  • Plenary Remarks at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Technical Conference on Natural Gas Emissions Reduction

    On August 2nd and 3rd, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) hosted a Technical Conference in order to engage with stakeholders and investigate how the natural gas industry can best meet a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2006 levels by 2030. Jenn Danis gave plenary remarks on this topic during the second day of the conference. Her remarks focused on the need for holistic, long-term gas planning at the level of the state utility regulator. Without this planning, BPU will not be able to fulfill its responsibilities, which include ensuring just and reasonable rates for consumers as well as protecting gas utilities that will continue to provide crucial services for some time.

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  • Comments to DOE on National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors

    The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Request for Information regarding its program to designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors in areas with a need for new electric transmission capacity. We submitted comments to DOE recommending that the agency require some additional information from applicants: how a project in a designated corridor would cause power plants to increase or decrease emissions in response to the new transmission capacity and how environmental justice communities would be affected. We also recommended that DOE review applications in groups to best account for the interconnected nature of the electric grid. Finally, we recommended that DOE standardize certain modeling techniques and inputs to increase the accuracy of developers’ applications and to enable DOE to conduct apples-to-apples comparisons.

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  • Amicus Brief in Challenge to Oil and Gas Permitting in Alaska

    The Willow Master Development Plan is a proposed oil and gas development project in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska led by ConocoPhillips. In 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the project for development. In 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska vacated BLM’s approval of the Willow Project, but BLM prepared a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) and subsequently re-approved the Project with fairly minor modifications. In March 2023, Plaintiffs challenged BLM's approval. We filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in support of Plaintiffs to provide reasons supporting vacatur if the Court grants summary judgment to Plaintiffs.


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  • Comments to EPA on Proposed Emissions Standards for New Motor Vehicles

    In May 2023, EPA proposed to strengthen tailpipe emissions standards for greenhouse gas and criteria pollutants for both light-duty and medium-duty vehicles. The standards apply to vehicle model years beginning in 2027 and would increase in stringency through model year 2032. In our comment letter, we explain that the Proposed Rule represents a sensible approach to cost-effectively reducing motor vehicle pollution that contributes to climate change and harms public health. We suggest that EPA take some additional steps to robustly support the regulation and ensure a complete presentation of benefits and costs.

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  • Comments to EPA on Louisiana Primacy for Carbon Sequestration Wells

    We recently filed comments to EPA on its proposal to grant the State of Louisiana primary enforcement responsibility (primacy) over Class VI injection wells used for geologic carbon sequestration. Our comments encourage EPA to ensure that Louisiana has adequate and timely plans for transitioning Class II enhanced oil or gas recovery wells to the Class VI program, where appropriate, in order to mitigate safety concerns. Louisiana’s planned timeline for Class II transition fails to meet some of the requirements set forth in EPA’s regulations and guidance, and the state’s Class II transition plan and related regulations may be inadequate for mitigating risks. Our comments also encourage EPA to provide thorough responses to all concerns raised by community members about risk and oversight of injection wells, and require appropriate risk-mitigation measures before granting primacy.

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  • Comments to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation and NYSERDA on Proposed Cap-and-Invest Program

    In 2019, New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. The Climate Act set economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions limits and established the Climate Action Council. In its Scoping Plan, the Climate Action Council ultimately recommended implementation of a cap-and-invest program to meet the Climate Act’s emissions reduction requirements. In preparation for developing a proposal, DEC and NYSERDA conducted a preliminary stakeholder outreach process consisting of a series of online Stakeholder Feedback Sessions followed by an informal comment opportunity. Policy Integrity filed comments focused on the scope and structure of the stakeholder outreach process. 

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  • Comments to the Michigan Public Service Commission on DTE and Consumers Energy’s Proposal for a Benefit Cost Analysis Test

    In 2022, as part of a multi-year MI Power Grid Initiative initiative focused on maximizing the benefits of the transition to clean, distributed energy resources, the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) directed specified Michigan electric utilities to file a proposal for a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) framework for use in evaluating prospective pilot programs.  In February 2023, DTE Electric Company and Consumers Energy filed a BCA proposal, and on June 23, Policy Integrity submitted comments to the PSC on that propsal. Our comments made several recommendations to ensure that the BCA framework would be useful for properly weighting environmental impacts associated with proposed pilots and maximizing net benefits, including that the test ultimately adopted should incorporate Michigan’s decarbonization policy with greater specificity.

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