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Recent Projects

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  • Reports

    Getting the Value of Distributed Energy Resources Right

    December 3, 2019

    Our report notes the growing presence of distributed energy resources, like solar panels and energy storage installations, and explains how they should be compensated for providing electricity services valued by utilities and their customers. Currently, 40 states use net energy metering programs to compensate DERs. We describe a promising alternative, “value stacking,” which better reflects DERs’ value, and provide suggestions for how to implement this approach.

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  • Reports

    Pipeline Approvals and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    April 9, 2019

    In light of growing public awareness of the environmental effects of pipeline projects, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has faced competing pressures regarding how to balance the need for new natural gas pipelines with their environmental consequences. Concerns about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resulting climate change effects have become a flashpoint in the debate. Our report examines the legal context surrounding FERC’s evaluation of the environmental impacts of proposed interstate natural gas pipelines. We look at FERC’s obligations under the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as potential improvements the agency can make to its analyses to better inform policy makers and the public about the impacts of proposed projects.

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  • Reports

    Opportunities for Valuing Climate Impacts in U.S. State Electricity Policy

    April 2, 2019

    With an absence of federal leadership on climate change, many states have worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own, often by incorporating a broader range of considerations into electricity policy. Our report assesses the potential to expand the valuation of climate damages in state electricity policy using Social Cost of Carbon metrics. We examine existing statutes and regulations in all 50 states to identify opportunities for valuing climate impacts around the country.

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  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    Regulation in Transition

    March 6, 2019

    This article, forthcoming in the Minnesota Law Review, identifies a new trend in aggressive regulatory rollbacks and argues that it is likely to become an enduring feature of American politics. Rather than stick to the typical deregulatory playbook, President Trump has made aggressive use of other instruments that had not previously played a significant role. Through these strategies, the Trump administration was able to reach a far greater proportion of regulations finalized during Obama’s presidency than would have been possible under prior practices. In the current climate, aggressive rollback strategies will lead to an important reconceptualization of the Executive Branch, in which future one-term presidents are unlikely to see a significant portion of their regulatory output on important matters survive and the incentives that presidents face in fashioning their regulatory policies will be significantly different. The changing incentives will affect a broad set of decisions, from transition planning for an incoming administration to the timing of regulatory actions relative to a president’s reelection campaign.

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  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    Sociopolitical Feedbacks and Climate Change

    March 6, 2019

    This article, published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, investigates sociopolitical feedbacks in the economy-climate system. These feedbacks occur when climate change affects the social or political processes that determine mitigation or adaptation levels, which in turn affect future climate damages. Two possible feedbacks are an economic disruption pathway and a political disruption pathway. In both, climate damages earlier in time undermine mitigation and adaptation policies, which exacerbates future climate damages. Using data on participation in multilateral environmental agreements, the article explores the political disruption pathway.

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  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    Markets, Externalities, and the Federal Power Act

    February 22, 2019

    This article, published in the New York University Environmental Law Journal, shows how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must attempt to address the external cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to achieve an efficient electricity market. CO2 emissions impose a significant cost on society by contributing to climate change. The electricity sector is a major source of these emissions, yet their external cost is not fully reflected in electricity rates, and the market outcomes thus do not adjust to reflect those true costs—a classic market failure. This leads to emissions that are higher than optimal.

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  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    Environmental Standards, Thresholds, and the Next Battleground of Climate Change Regulations

    February 15, 2019

    This article, published in the Minnesota Law Review, addresses a central battleground of the debate about the future of greenhouse gas regulations: the valuation of particulate matter reductions that accompany reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. The benefits from particulate matter reductions are substantial for climate change rules, accounting for almost one half of the quantified benefits of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. These benefits are also significant for regulations of other air pollutants, making this issue one of far-reaching importance for the future of environmental protection.

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  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    Will You Be There for Me the Whole Time?

    February 7, 2019

    This paper discusses how variations in the availability of various resources (generation seasonality) and the fluctuations in the electricity usage (load seasonality) relate to efficient capacity market design. Even though capacity markets have been around for two decades, the necessity as well as the design of these markets are subjects of ongoing debates. Many design questions, such as how to determine the amount of capacity to be procured, how to prevent market power, or how to provide incentives for performance dominate both the academic literature and the policymaking discussions. Another design aspect that plays a crucial role for market participants is the length of the capacity product procured (“obligation period”), because it defines the length of time for which a seller commits to maintaining its capacity available. However, a thorough analysis of obligation periods has been overlooked by literature and policymaking discussions. Our article works to provide this analysis.

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  • Issue Briefs

    A Lower Bound

    January 31, 2019

    The Social Cost of Carbon, developed by the Obama-era Interagency Working Group (IWG), is the best available tool for measuring the economic damages from greenhouse gas emissions. It has been used in analysis for over 100 federal regulations that affect greenhouse gas emissions, as well as by a number of states in electricity and climate policy. Still, many significant impacts identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are difficult to quantify and so have been omitted from the IWG SCC estimates. Impacts such as increased fire risk, slower economic growth, and large-scale migration are all unaccounted for, despite their potential to cause large economic losses. Our new issue brief discusses these omissions and other variables that will influence climate outcomes. We encourage policymakers to account for this likely underestimate by viewing the SCC as a lower bound for damages.

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  • Academic Articles/Working Papers

    Congress and the Executive

    January 30, 2019

    Critics of the administrative state have been urging Congress to rein in regulatory action, claiming that regulations created by executive agencies are undesirable as a matter of policy and are in violation of constitutional principles. In a troubling development, the Trump Administration has also turned away from cost-benefit analysis in order to carry out its anti-regulatory agenda, disregarding an established bipartisan consensus that stretched back several decades. This article, published in the Michigan State Law Review, argues that this anti-regulatory position is unwarranted. These executive regulatory actions produced large net benefits to the American people, were carried out pursuant to authority delegated by Congress, and were reviewed by the courts. By contrast, more robust action by Congress, as long as Congress continues to exhibit its current gridlock on important policy issues like climate change, is unlikely to be beneficial.

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