Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Does Stakeholder Participation Influence Epa’s Chemical Risk Values?

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Does Stakeholder Participation Influence Epa’s Chemical Risk Values?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION: STAKEHOLDER PARTICIPATION IN THE REGULATORY PROCESS

Regulation is the most common method of implementing federal policy. Federal agencies issue thousands of regulations annually, whereas Congress enacted fewer than 200 new laws in the 113th Congress (Balla and Dudley, 2014). Given the importance of regulations, it is critical to understand the process.

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is the legal foundation for stakeholder participation in the regulatory process (Balla and Dudley, 2014). Under the APA, agencies are required, subject to some exemptions, to provide stakeholders the opportunity to comment on draft regulations. Stakeholder participation in the regulatory process not only adds legitimacy to the rulemakings, but it also alerts agencies to weaknesses in its knowledge base and helps agencies determine the degrees of acceptance and resistance of the rule in the affected communities (Kerwin and Furlong, 2011). In fact, most researchers agree that if rulemaking procedures "are to have their intended effects," agencies must take stakeholder comments seriously (West, 2005).

Due to its importance, stakeholders often involve themselves in all agency rulemaking and regulatory processes. (Kerwin and Furlong, 2011). As a result, analysis of stakeholder participation in the regulatory process has increased significantly since the 1990s, but scarce empirical evidence exists regarding the precise impact of stakeholder involvement on regulatory decision-making (Croley, 1998). This is due in large part to the difficulty of gathering and assessing the necessary data to understand a stakeholder's influence on agencies' decisions (Croley, 1998). Appraising the impact of comments on rulemaking, however, is imperative to understanding how regulatory policy is constructed (Shapiro 2008).

Researchers have generally found that stakeholder participation in the rulemaking process is valuable and impacts agency decisions (Kerwin and Furlong, 2011; Golden, 1998; Woods, 2009; Yackee, 2006). Some argue that stakeholder participation in the regulatory process generates negligible input and administrators have little incentive to pay attention to the comments they receive (Woods, 2009). Nonetheless, evidence indicates that agencies take public comments very seriously and stakeholders believe their comments are effective (Kerwin and Furlong, 2011). In fact, while the comment period has been criticized for being an ineffective forum for public participation in the regulatory process, there is little question that agencies often modify final decisions as a result of such comments (Lubbers, 2012; West, 2005).

There has been extensive research on the regulatory process, with several studies focusing on stakeholder participation. In an analysis of 11 randomly selected rules issued by three agencies, - EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - Balla and Dudley (2014) found that comments come from a diverse group of stakeholders. Although evidence suggests that business organizations are more active than other stakeholders, more recently, consumers, environmentalists, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) have been submitting a large quantity of comments for proposed regulations. (Balla and Dudley, 2014). For example, more than half of the comments EPA received on "its 2012 proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from electric utility generators [were] submitted by individuals and environmental organizations arguing in support of stricter standards" (Balla and Dudley, 2014).

Balla and Dudley (2014) also note that there is mixed evidence regarding the influence of comments filed by industry interests versus consumers, environmentalists, and NGOs. Some argue that industry comments have limited influence on the regulatory process (Balla and Dudley, 2014). For example, Golden (1998) examined comments submitted for eleven regulations in three federal agencies, including EPA, and found that agencies are most likely to modify rules "when there is a consensus among commenters". …

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