There’s Undoubtedly A New Sheriff in Town in Massachusetts

I have never agreed with those in the environmental community who are opposed to cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis.  Cost-effectiveness analysis just seems a no-brainer to me.  As to cost-benefit analysis, we do it implicitly every time we write a regulation, and I don’t understand the unwillingness to do so explicitly.

All of which serves as burying the lede to Executive Order 562, issued by Governor Baker governor-charlie-baker-300x450this week.  The order applies to both existing regulations and those proposed or to be proposed, and has several important elements:

  • Except as in compliance with the Order, all existing regulations must sunset as of March 31, 2016.
  • Only existing regulations mandated by law or “essential to the health, safety, environment or welfare of the Commonwealth’s citizens” may be retained or modified.
  • The regulation’s benefits must exceed its costs.
  • The regulations may not exceed federal requirements.
  • “Less restrictive and intrusive alternatives have been considered and found less desirable.” (This seems like an awkward formulation of a cost-effectiveness analysis; I hope that it is implemented basically to provide a requirement that the regulation simply be the most cost-effective alternative.)
  • The regulations do not “unduly and adversely affect Massachusetts citizens and customers of the Commonwealth, or the competitive environment in Massachusetts.”
  • All proposed regulations must now have a “business/competitiveness impact statement”.

Make no mistake, this is a far-reaching Order.  If honored according to its terms, it will severely hamper Massachusetts environmental regulators.  The key is that it does not simply require that regulations be justified under cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness criteria – which I would wholly support.

Even if a regulation’s benefits exceed its costs, and even if it is the most cost-effective approach to addressing the problem the regulation is meant to solve, it is still forbidden if it exceeds federal requirements or if it “unduly and adversely affects Massachusetts citizens.”  I don’t know what that means, but logic dictates that it means something more than cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit criteria, since those are required separately.

To me, the Order thus goes too far, though time will tell how it is interpreted, and whether the benefits of requiring cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis outweigh the obstacles that the Order places in the way of beneficial regulations.

That’s what we need – a cost-benefit analysis of the Order itself!

One thought on “There’s Undoubtedly A New Sheriff in Town in Massachusetts

  1. Pingback: Here’s Another Nice Mess: Executive Order 562 Claims Its First Victim | Law and the Environment

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