Many observers agree that transparency promotes fairness, objectivity, and sound policy in the regulatory process. Transparency exposes, among other things, who is regulating, why they’re regulating, and on what basis they’re regulating. It also makes clear what the public is paying for—that is, whether the benefits of regulations outweigh their costs. More precisely, transparency can be defined as:
With more rules created every year, the cost of compliance continues to increase; it is imperative that the public have access to the technical and scientific data regulators use to make decisions. Moreover, the regulatory process must ensure that all voices are heard during rulemakings—and that appropriate guardrails are in place to preserve its integrity by reducing the potential for bias to undermine sound policy outcomes. Finally, regulatory data technologies already in use outside the United States reduce compliance costs in two ways – first by enabling regulated entities to follow rule changes electronically and second by automating reporting.
The concept of transparency is “often posited as an unalloyed good and a hallmark of democratic government,” for “in a democratic society, the people are entitled to know how their representatives govern.” This basic principle enjoys support across the political spectrum. Many observers agree that transparency is essential to the regulatory process, as it promotes fairness, objectivity, and sound policy.
Transparency enables Congress to more effectively conduct oversight of regulatory agencies and provides the courts with information necessary to judge whether regulations conform to governing statutes. It also makes clear whether the benefits of regulations outweigh their costs. Regulations can raise prices for energy and other consumer goods, costing consumers and businesses billions of dollars. The reverse is also true: failure to regulate appropriately and effectively can hold back investment and prevent needed economic growth. As such, the public needs to know whether what they’re paying for produces meaningful public health and environmental benefits.