Livermore comments in on President Obama's choice for regulatory czar

Livermore comments in on President Obama's choice for regulatory czar

Michael Livermore, executive director of the Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity, told on February 24 that Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s choice to direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), will preserve cost-benefit analysis as a tool but not use it in such a way that concludes that regulation is too costly to impose.

“It’s true that cost-benefit analysis has been used in a very anti-regulatory way,” said Livermore, co-author with Dean and Lawrence King Professor of Law Richard Revesz of Retaking Rationality: How Cost Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health. “But cost-benefit analysis can be fixed to be more of a neutral tool.”

In his voluminous writings, Sunstein, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has repeatedly defended the idea of a strong regulatory state. But his critics say that he routinely comes down in favor of applying cost-benefit analysis on a case-by-case basis in a way that would disallow the regulation in question.

If confirmed, Sunstein will review every major regulation promulgated by any federal agency.

In the midst of an economic downturn, “it’s going to be essential to have a strong cost-benefit analysis in support of any regulation as a way of selling it to the American public," said Livermore, whose Institute for Policy Integrity issued a list of proposed reforms that would include greater transparency for the OIRA review processes and reviews to determine the cost of deregulation or inaction. "If I were a President who wanted to have a strong environmental agenda, the last thing I would do is say, ‘We’re not going to look at the costs of these regulations; we’re just going to do them.’”