Regulatory Policy

My research on regulatory policy continues to focus on evaluating non-traditional environmental regulatory instruments including management-based regulations for offshore oil drilling, local subsidies for high-efficiency appliance adoption.  I remain committed to promoting the use of evaluation in developing evidence-based policy.

Regulatory Response to Crisis

Together with Edward Balleisen, Kim Krawiec, and Jonathan Wiener I am editing a book titled Recalibrating Risk: Crises, Perceptions, and Regulatory Change.  Recalibrating Risk examines how people and policy-makers respond to major crises.  After the immediate challenges of disaster management, crises may – sometimes – reveal new evidence or frame new normative perspectives that drive new policies designed to prevent future events of a similar magnitude.  These policy responses may vary widely – for example, tightening regulatory standards, creating stronger incentive systems, requiring greater transparency, reorganizing government institutions, or cosmetically masking inaction.  We delve into a series of enduring puzzles about the relationships between crises and regulatory policy, exploring the following questions:


  • When do crises change the risk perceptions of the general public, policy elites, or both?
  • Do changes in the risk perceptions of policy elites result in different policy responses as compared to changes in risk perceptions that only occur among the broader public?
  • How do the narratives that emerge about crises shape the policy response (or inaction) that ensues?
  • When crises do generate regulatory responses, how and why do those responses vary? How do differing features of crises, and of the social and political systems in which they occur, influence the adoption of different policy instruments and strategies?
  • To the extent that it is possible to tell, when do crisis-driven regulatory changes lead to desirable reforms, as opposed to hasty overreactions or policy mismatches? How might governments (both elected officials and regulatory policy-makers), businesses, citizens’ groups, and scholars do a better job of preparing to learn from and sensibly respond to crises?


As these questions indicate, our multidisciplinary volume reconsiders the causal links among crisis, public perceptions, and regulatory policy.  We wish to draw a better analytical map of crisis-driven risk regulation, achieving greater clarity about when and especially how “crisis” generates regulatory change.  This endeavor begins in Part I with several conceptual essays that convey the most recent multidisciplinary knowledge about risk perceptions, risk analysis, and institutional responses to the sorts of disasters that shake up political debate and policy agendas.  The book then proceeds to three case study clusters (Parts 2-4), about policy responses to major oil spills, nuclear accidents, and financial crashes (both in the United States and other industrialized democracies).  Although these types of regulatory crisis hardly exhaust the range of episodes that we might have studies, our case studies do offer extensive evidence about how crises influence choices among regulatory options.

In the first of two concluding chapters, the co-editors develop an overarching descriptive analysis of how crises (and associated changes in perceptions) influence the selection of regulatory responses.  We also lay out a set of causal hypotheses about crisis-driven regulatory policy, distinguishing which factors lead to which kinds of responses, which we hope can help guide future research into a wider array of policy arenas.

In the second concluding chapter, we develop a normative analysis of crisis-driven regulatory policy.  We attempt to evaluate when and how crisis-driven policy innovations are desirable, including whether they effectively address the risks highlighted by crisis events, impose acceptable costs, and induce other risks.  Further, we suggest ways to improve the actual responses of policy-makers in the future – their responses to crises and the accompanying demands for regulatory reform that they tend to generate.

Offshore Oil Regulation

I am working on two projects related to offshore oil and gas regulation.  One examines what we know and don’t know about the effectiveness of different regulatory approaches to offshore oil and gas  in different countries.  Papers on this topic include:

Bennear, Lori S. “Positive and Normative Analysis of Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling Regulations in the U.S., U.K., and Norway,”  revise and resubmit at Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.

Bennear, Lori S. (2012) “Beyond Belts and Suspenders: Promoting Private Risk Management in Offshore Drilling,” in Coglianese, Cary and Christopher Carrigan eds.  Regulatory Breakdown? The Crisis of Confidence in U.S. Regulation  (Philadelphia, PA:  University of Pennsylvania Press).

The second project is joint with Jonathan Wiener and Jonas Monast and explores the potential need for a transnational liability regime for oil spills from offshore drilling platforms in the Arctic.