Very intriguing... Georgetown law professor Lisa Heinzerling is heading off to the EPA to advise Lisa Jackson on climate-change issues. Heinzerling, among other things, was the lead author of the plaintiff's brief in Massachusetts v. EPA back in 2007, in which the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the EPA did, in fact, have the authority to regulate carbon-dioxide. So, yeah, it's a big break from the Bush years.
There's also some bonus tension-in-waiting for reporters to salivate over. In 2004, Heinzerling teamed up with Frank Ackerman to write a very interesting book, Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, which criticized the government's use of cost-benefit analysis in crafting public-health and environmental regulations. It was reviewed here in The New Republic by none other than Cass Sunstein, who, while praising many of the book's smart points, remained on the opposite side of the broader debate, arguing that cost-benefit analysis is indispensible and should be reformed for liberal ends, not disposed. Sunstein, recall, is slated to be head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, one of the executive-branch chokepoints for all new regulation. So he'll be squaring off with the EPA fairly regularly. And Heinzerling, for her part, doesn't flinch from debate: Here's a sharp critique of Sunstein's philosophy that she penned back in 2007.
So it'll be more than a little fascinating to watch this debate grind on. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that more than a few progressive groups, such as the Center for Progressive Reform, are revving up to protest Sunstein's appointment. The backlash isn't unexpected: Sunstein has had an absurdly prolific career as an academic exploring all sorts of provocative questions, and he's staked out plenty of controversial terrain in his time, from asking whether OSHA is constitutional to suggesting that the lives of the elderly should be considered less valuable than those of younger people in regulatory analysis. That could make for a testy confirmation hearing. Who knew cost-benefit analysis could be so raucous?
More: For those who can't get enough, here's NYU's Richard Revesz arguing in Grist last May that a revamped version of cost-benefit analysis can actually be used for liberal ends. Here was Heinzerling's rebuttal.