Cost-Benefit Analysis and Agency Independence
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The presidential mandate that agency rulemakings be subjected to cost-benefit analysis and regulatory review is one of the most controversial developments in administrative law over the past several decades. There is a prevailing view that the role of cost-benefit analysis in the executive branch is to help facilitate control of agencies by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). This Article challenges that view, arguing that cost-benefit analysis in fact helps preserve agency autonomy in the face of oversight. This effect stems from the constraints imposed on reviewers by the regularization of cost-benefit analysis methodology and the fact that agencies have played a major role in shaping that methodology. The autonomy-preserving effect of cost-benefit analysis has been largely ignored in debates over the institution of regulatory review. Ultimately, cost-benefit analysis has ambiguous effects on agency independence, simultaneously preserving, informing, and constraining agency power.