you may also use a post-statute baseline to evaluate the discretionary elements of the action.

3. Evaluation of Alternatives

You should describe the alternatives available to you and the reasons for choosing one alternative over another. As noted previously, alternatives that rely on incentives and offer increased flexibility are often more cost-effective than more prescriptive approaches. For instance, user fees and information dissemination may be good alternatives to direct command-and-control regulation. Within a command-and-control regulatory program, performance-based standards generally offer advantages over standards specifying design, behavior, or manner of compliance.

You should carefully consider all appropriate alternatives for the key attributes or provisions of the rule. The previous discussion outlines examples of appropriate alternatives. Where there is a “continuum” of alternatives for a standard (such as the level of stringency), you generally should analyze at least three options: the preferred option; a more stringent option that achieves additional benefits (and presumably costs more) beyond those realized by the preferred option; and a less stringent option that costs less (and presumably generates fewer benefits) than the preferred option.

You should choose reasonable alternatives deserving careful consideration. In some cases, a regulatory program will focus on an option that is near or at the limit of technical feasibility. In this case, the analysis would not need to examine a more stringent option. For each of the options analyzed, you should compare the anticipated benefits to the corresponding costs.

It is not adequate simply to report a comparison of the agency’s preferred option to the chosen baseline. Whenever you report the benefits and costs of alternative options, you should present both total and incremental benefits and costs. You should present incremental benefits and costs as differences from the corresponding estimates associated with the next less-stringent alternative.10 It is important to emphasize that incremental effects are simply differences between successively more stringent alternatives.


For the least stringent alternative, you should estimate the incremental benefits and costs relative to the baseline. Thus, for this alternative, the incremental effects would be the same as the corresponding totals. For each alternative that is more stringent than the least stringent alternative, you should estimate the incremental benefits and costs relative to the closest less-stringent alternative.

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