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Risk-Based Pricing and Risk-Reducing Effort: Does the Private Insurance Market Reduce Environmental Accidents?

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  • Haitao Yin
  • Howard Kunreuther
  • Matthew White
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    Abstract

    This paper examines whether risk-based pricing promotes risk-reducing effort. Such mechanisms are common in private insurance markets, but are rarely incorporated in government assurance programs. We analyze accidental underground fuel tank leaks--a source of environmental damage to water supplies--over a fourteen-year period, using disaggregate (facility-level) data and policy variation in financing the cleanup of tank leaks over time. The data suggest that eliminating a state-level government assurance program and switching to private insurance markets to finance cleanups reduced the frequency of costly underground fuel tank leaks by more than 20 percent. This corresponds to more than 3,000 avoided fuel-tank release accidents over eight years in one state alone, a benefit in avoided cleanup costs and environmental harm exceeding $400 million. These benefits arise because private insurers mitigate moral hazard by providing financial incentives for tank owners to close or replace leak-prone tanks prior to costly accidents.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15100.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2009
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    Publication status: published as “Risk-Based Pricing and Risk-Reducing Effort: Does the Private Insurance Market Reduce Environmental Accidents?” (with Haitao Yin and Matthew White), Journal of Law & Economics, Vol. 54, No. 2 (May 2011), pp. 325-363
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15100

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    1. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2007. "Guaranteed Trouble: The Economic Effects of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation," NBER Working Papers 13438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Robin R. Jenkins & Elizabeth Kopits & David Simpson, 2006. "Measuring the Social Benefits of EPA Land Cleanup and Reuse Programs," NCEE Working Paper Series 200603, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Sep 2006.
    3. Kareken, John H & Wallace, Neil, 1978. "Deposit Insurance and Bank Regulation: A Partial-Equilibrium Exposition," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(3), pages 413-38, July.
    4. George A. Akerlof & Paul M. Romer, 1993. "Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 24(2), pages 1-74.
    5. Cooper, Russell & Ross, Thomas W., 1998. "Bank runs: Liquidity costs and investment distortions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 27-38, February.
    6. James Boyd, 1997. "'Green money' in the bank: firm responses to environmental financial responsibility rules," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(6), pages 491-506.
    7. Allan H. Meltzer, 1967. "Major Issues in the Regulation of Financial Institutions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 482.
    8. Boyd, James & Kunreuther, Howard, 1997. "Retroactive Liability or the Public Purse?," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 79-90, January.
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