Chevronizing Around Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Jonathan S. Masur & Eric A. Posner

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Abstract

The Trump administration’s efforts to weaken regulations were in tension with cost-benefit analysis, which in many cases supported those regulations or otherwise failed to support the administration’s deregulatory objectives. Rather than attempting to justify its actions as a matter of policy preferences, the administration responded on multiple occasions by using Chevron to interpret statutes so as to evade cost-benefit analysis. The statutory interpretation route, which we call “Chevronizing” around cost-benefit analysis, created novel challenges for courts, as it pitted traditional Chevron deference against a trend in favor of requiring agencies to regulate based on cost-benefit analysis as a matter of sound public policy. This Article evaluates these efforts and concludes that in many of these cases, the Trump administration’s attempts to leverage Chevron deference as a weapon against cost-benefit analysis—and sensible policymaking—exposed it to significant legal risk. We expect that courts will reject several of these efforts if they are ever adjudicated. In the process, the Trump administration’s machinations may have had the effect of contorting how future courts apply Chevron deference and how future administrations deploy it.

Chevronizing Around Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Jonathan S. Masur & Eric A. Posner

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

The Trump administration’s efforts to weaken regulations were in tension with cost-benefit analysis, which in many cases supported those regulations or otherwise failed to support the administration’s deregulatory objectives. Rather than attempting to justify its actions as a matter of policy preferences, the administration responded on multiple occasions by using Chevron to interpret statutes so as to evade cost-benefit analysis. The statutory interpretation route, which we call “Chevronizing” around cost-benefit analysis, created novel challenges for courts, as it pitted traditional Chevron deference against a trend in favor of requiring agencies to regulate based on cost-benefit analysis as a matter of sound public policy. This Article evaluates these efforts and concludes that in many of these cases, the Trump administration’s attempts to leverage Chevron deference as a weapon against cost-benefit analysis—and sensible policymaking—exposed it to significant legal risk. We expect that courts will reject several of these efforts if they are ever adjudicated. In the process, the Trump administration’s machinations may have had the effect of contorting how future courts apply Chevron deference and how future administrations deploy it.