Public Comments’ Influence on Science Use in U.S. Rulemaking: The Case of EPA’s National Emission Standards

Mia Costa, Bruce A. Desmarais, John A. Hird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Scholarship on bureaucratic policymaking has long focused on both the use of expertise and public accountability. However, few have considered the degree to which public input affects the use of research in U.S. regulatory impact analyses (RIAs). We examine changes in the research that is cited in RIAs in response to public comments to assess the influence of participation on the use of information for rulemaking. We conduct an in-depth analysis of comments on a major proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule to determine whether regulators alter the evidence used based on public input and whether some types of commenters have more influence than others. We analyze the text similarity of comments to scientific research utilized in the RIAs to determine whether regulators iteratively update their rule justification based on scientific information referenced in comments. We find support for seminal subgovernment theories about the relationship between business interests, Congress, and the bureaucracy; in relation to all kinds of commenters, members of Congress and industry groups had the strongest effect on changes in the research used in the RIAs. The article provides one of the first statistical analyses of science exchange between the public and a bureaucratic agency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-50
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Review of Public Administration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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