Missing a Teachable Moment: The Obama Administration and the Importance of Regulation

Lisa Heinzerling
Publication Date: 
November 21, 2011

ACS is pleased to distribute "Missing a Teachable Moment: The Obama Administration and the Importance of Regulation", an Issue Brief by Lisa Heinzerling, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. In this Issue Brief, the author, who was the Associate Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Policy (2009-2010), addresses the administration’s response to recent attacks on regulation, calling on the Obama Administration to tout the benefits of regulation amidst an atmosphere that overemphasizes its costs.

Professor Heinzerling writes:

While directing agencies to trim costs from their regulatory programs, the Obama administration missed an opportunity to talk about why we regulate and what regulation achieves. How much better it would have been if the administration had led with an affirmative recognition of the important purposes of regulation and a detailed accounting of the good consequences that come from its own regulatory efforts: money saved, health protected, lives not cut short.

Regulations, Heinzerling explains, fulfill a “basic purpose of our government” by protecting “people from being hurt by other people.” Yet, ironically, according to the author, the regulations under most vigorous attack, such as those stemming from the Clean Air Act, have some of the greatest potential to protect that principle by safeguarding against health, safety, consumer and environmental harms. Professor Heinzerling reminds readers that all is not lost, stating, “For good or for ill, . . . the continuing attacks on the regulatory state give the administration a continuing opportunity to articulate how human well-being, and freedom itself, are protected through law.”