ARB Research Seminar

This page updated February 13, 2014

On the Accuracy of Regulatory Cost Estimates

Photo of Richard D. Morgenstern, Ph.D.

Richard D. Morgenstern, Ph.D., Resources for the Future (RFF)

March 14, 2014
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA


Over the past several decades, the U.S. has seen a gradual reduction in economic regulation and a simultaneous increase in safety, health, environmental, and other social regulation. Especially with the prospect of regulation on greenhouse gases, there is growing concern about the costs, effectiveness, and benefits of federal rules.

While prospective or ex ante analyses of the benefits and costs of major federal regulations are now a standard part of government operations, retrospective or ex post analyses, focusing on measurements of actual results, remain rare. Despite encouragement from the National Academy of Sciences and others, and a recent presidential executive order promoting retrospective analysis by federal agencies, many challenges hinder development of reliable, comprehensive measures of the performance of regulations and regulatory programs. The available ex post analyses often focus on inappropriate metrics, use data that are subject to selection bias, and rely on questionable baseline assumptions.

This presentation examines the evidence on retrospective analysis and proposes a way forward.

Speaker Biography

Richard D. Morgenstern, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF). Dr. Richard Morgenstern's research focuses on the economic analysis of environmental issues with an emphasis on the costs, benefits, evaluation, and design of environmental policies, especially economic incentive measures. His analysis also focuses on climate change, including the design of cost-effective policies to reduce emissions in the United States and abroad.

Immediately prior to joining RFF, Dr. Morgenstern was senior economic counselor to the undersecretary for global affairs at the U.S. Department of State, where he participated in negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol. Previously he served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he acted as deputy administrator (1993); assistant administrator for policy, planning, and evaluation (1991-93); and director of the Office of Policy Analysis (1983-95). Formerly a tenured professor at the City University of New York. Dr. Morgenstern has taught at Oberlin College, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Yeshiva University, and American University. He has served on expert committees of the National Academy of Sciences and as a consultant to various organizations.

Dr. Morgenstern received his A.B. degree in economics at Oberlin College and his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Michigan. Dr. Morgenstern has published dozens of articles on environmental economics and policy and he has authored/edited of several books, including New Approaches on Energy and the Environment: Policy Advices for the President (with Paul R. Portney) and Reality Check: "The Nature and the Performance of Voluntary Environmental Programs in the United States, Europe, and Japan" (with William A. Pizer).

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