On March 12, the Environmental Law Journal, Environmental Law Society, and Institute for Policy Integrity hosted a day-long symposium titled "Changes to the Regulatory State: President Obama’s Approach to Regulation and its Impacts on Federal Environmental and Health Protections." The keynote speaker, Lisa Heinzerling, associate administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI), laid out the agency’s current challenges and goals in the wake of President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order requiring federal agencies to set 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

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Michael Livermore, executive director of IPI, introduced Heinzerling as one of the key figures in “the most active, forward-thinking, and engaged EPAs in recent memory, if not ever.” Heinzerling, who co-authored Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, joined the EPA the day after Obama’s inauguration. Under the new administration, she says the EPA has returned to its basic mission: to ensure clean air, water, and land through regulation. Still, Heinzerling said that this mission cannot be achieved through environmental law alone. Over the last year the EPA has joined in partnerships with other areas of the administration, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation, to form committees and promote common goals.

“One of the signature features of this administration is the willingness to have agencies come together, work together, and work across their [areas] to try to achieve their missions together,” Heinzerling said.

According to Heinzerling, one of the key changes in the new administration’s approach to environmental imperatives has been a shift in attitude. Specifically, environmental concerns have become an integrated part of the rulemaking process. “What we’re trying to do is make it so that environmental justice is part of that process from the very beginning,” Heinzerling said. “So that it is not just tacked on at the end…. This will allow [environmental justice] to be a real part of our decision making on our rules at EPA and require our offices to think hard about that issue while they’re developing rules.”

Heinzerling also stressed the EPA’s efforts at transparency throughout the rulemaking process. This has been driven in large part on the EPA’s Web site, which provides information on rules as they make their way through the agency, including links to documents, schedules, and information on which groups are involved in developing specific rules. “We’re trying to be open about what we do,” Heinzerling said, “so that the public can know, the public can give us advice, the public can understand what we’re up to, and tell us where we’re getting it right and where we’re getting it wrong.”

Following Heinzerling’s keynote, Livermore moderated the day’s first panel, titled “Legal and Philosophical Underpinnings of Cost-Benefit Analysis as a Tool for Regulatory Review.” The second panel, “In the Trenches: President Obama’s Recent and Pending Revisions to the Regulatory Review Process,” featured Richard Morgenstern, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future who participated in negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol while at the U.S. Department of State. The final panel, “Federal Environmental and Health Regulation in the New Regulatory State,” was moderated by John Edward Sexton Professor of Law and Chair and Faculty Director of the Hauser Global Law School Program Richard Stewart.

Watch Heinzerling's keynote and the first panel:

Posted March 26, 2010