How Well Are Our Environmental Laws Working?


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There has long been bipartisan interest in understanding how well US laws and regulations are working to achieve their intended purposes. A credible look back at past performance—referred to as retrospective or ex post analysis—can help document the extent to which regulatory benefits have been realized, and at what cost. Such analyses can also illuminate any unintended consequences of regulation, e.g., adverse outcomes for certain populations, or enhancement of market power. These retrospective studies are also critical in supporting future innovation in regulatory design.

Prospective (or ex ante) analyses—more commonly known as regulatory impact analyses, or RIAs—are now routinely conducted for major new regulations. As Michael Greenstone noted a decade ago, however, RIAs are developed at the “point when the least is known.” Retrospective analyses are done after a regulation is in place allowing the measurement of its actual effects. But many challenges impede the routine conduct of retrospective analysis of federal environmental rules. Thus, consistent measurements of actual outcomes, based on quasi-experimental or other modern methods, are extremely limited.

Given the challenges, how do we advance what we know about how well our laws (and particularly, our environmental laws) are working? Resources for the Future (RFF) has been leading a two-year effort to help answer this question. A distinguished set of researchers will present findings from that work—primarily focused on Clean Air Act rules.

(doors open and breakfast will be served at 8:45 a.m.; reception to follow)

Location

Resources & Conservation Center
1400 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington DC 20036

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