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Endogenous Decentralization in Federal Environmental Policies

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  • Howard Chang
  • Hilary Sigman
  • Leah G. Traub

Abstract

Under most federal environmental laws and some health and safety laws, states may apply for "primacy," that is, authority to implement and enforce federal law, through a process known as "authorization." Some observers fear that states use authorization to adopt more lax policies in a regulatory "race to the bottom." This paper presents a simple model of the interaction between the federal and state governments in such a scheme of partial decentralization. Our model suggests that the authorization option may not only increase social welfare but also allow more stringent environmental regulations than would otherwise be feasible. Our model also suggests that the federal government may choose its policies so that states that desire more strict regulation authorize, while other states remain under the federal program. We then test this hypothesis using data on federal regulation of water pollution and of hazardous waste, which are two of the most important environmental programs to allow authorization. We find that states that prefer more environmental protection authorize more quickly under both policies. This evidence suggests that states seek authorization to adopt more strict policies instead of more lax policies compared to federal policies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13238.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Publication status: published as International Review of Law and Economics Volume 37, March 2014, Pages 39–50
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13238

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  1. Koleman S. Strumpf & Felix Oberholzer-Gee, 2002. "Endogenous Policy Decentralization: Testing the Central Tenet of Economic Federalism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 1-36, February.
  2. Hutchinson, Emma & Kennedy, Peter W., 2008. "State enforcement of federal standards: Implications for interstate pollution," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 316-344, August.
  3. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1996. "Local Labor Markets and Welfare Spells: Do Demand Conditions Matter?," NBER Working Papers 5643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hilary Sigman, 2002. "Letting States Do the Dirty Work: State Responsibility for Federal Environmental Regulation," Departmental Working Papers 200228, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  5. Bowman Cutter, W. & DeShazo, J.R., 2007. "The environmental consequences of decentralizing the decision to decentralize," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 32-53, January.
  6. Hilary Sigman, 2004. "Transboundary Spillovers and Decentralization of Environmental Policies," Departmental Working Papers 200416, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  7. Helland, Eric, 1998. "The Revealed Preferences of State EPAs: Stringency, Enforcement, and Substitution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 242-261, May.
  8. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," NBER Working Papers 8409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daniel L. Millimet, 2003. "Assessing the Empirical Impact of Environmental Federalism," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(4), pages 711-733.
  10. Lin C.-Y. Cynthia, 2010. "How Should Standards Be Set and Met?: On the Allocation of Regulatory Power in a Federal System," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-19, June.
  11. Ben Lockwood, 2002. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 313-337.
  12. Kunce, Mitch & Shogren, Jason F., 2005. "On interjurisdictional competition and environmental federalism," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 212-224, July.
  13. Neal D. Woods, 2006. "Primacy Implementation of Environmental Policy in the U.S. States," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(2), pages 259-276.
  14. Levinson, Arik, 2003. "Environmental Regulatory Competition: A Status Report and Some New Evidence," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(1), pages 91-106, March.
  15. Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Domestic pollution havens: evidence from cancer deaths in border counties," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 51-69, July.
  16. John A. List & Shelby Gerking, 2000. "Regulatory Federalism and Environmental Protection in the United States," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 453-471.
  17. Alison D. Morantz, 2009. "Has Devolution Injured American Workers? State and Federal Enforcement of Construction Safety," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 183-210, May.
  18. Helland, Eric & Whitford, Andrew B., 2003. "Pollution incidence and political jurisdiction: evidence from the TRI," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 403-424, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Libman, Alexander, 2009. "Constitutions, Regulations, and Taxes: Contradictions of Different Aspects of Decentralization," MPRA Paper 15854, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Libman, A., 2010. "Empirical Research on Determinants of Decentralization: A Literature Survey," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, issue 6, pages 10-29.

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