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Accidents Waiting to Happen: Liability Policy and Toxic Pollution Releases

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  • Austin, David
  • Alberini, Anna

Abstract

Proponents of environmental policies based on liability assert that strict liability imposed on the polluter will induce firms to handle hazardous wastes properly and to avoid disposing them into the environment. Economic theory and a few well-publicized cases, however, suggest that a number of factors may dilute the incentives posed by strict liability. In this paper, the authors run regressions relating unintended releases of pollution into the environment (aggregated at the state level, and followed over nine years from 1987 to 1995) to the imposition of strict liability on the polluter, exploiting variation across states in the liability provisions of their mini-Superfund laws, and in the years these were adopted. The authors experiment with instrumental variable estimation, fixed effects, and endogenous switching, and find that only after they explicitly model the endogeneity of states' liability laws is strict liability seen as reducing the seriousness of spills and releases. They also find evidence consistent with the notion that under strict liability, firms may spin off into, or delegate riskier production processes to, smaller firms, which are partially sheltered from liability. This tendency appears to be widespread.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-99-29.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 1999
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-99-29

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Keywords: strict liability; negligence; hazardous waste; state environmental policy; endogenous policy adoption;

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References

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  1. Cropper, Maureen L. & William N. Evans & Stephen J. Berard & Maria M. Ducla-Soares & Paul R. Portney, 1992. "The Determinants of Pesticide Regulation: A Statistical Analysis of EPA Decision Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 175-97, February.
  2. Austin, David & Alberini, Anna, 1997. "On and Off the Liability Bandwagon: Explaining State Adoptions of Strict Liability in Hazardous Waste Programs," Discussion Papers dp-98-08, Resources For the Future.
  3. Ringleb, Al H & Wiggins, Steven N, 1990. "Liability and Large-Scale, Long-term Hazards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 574-95, June.
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  6. Johnson, Shane A., 1997. "An Empirical Analysis of the Determinants of Corporate Debt Ownership Structure," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(01), pages 47-69, March.
  7. Alberini, Anna & Austin, David H., 1999. "Strict Liability as a Deterrent in Toxic Waste Management: Empirical Evidence from Accident and Spill Data," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 20-48, July.
  8. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1994. "Unnatural Experiments? Estimating the Incidence of Endogenous Policies," NBER Working Papers 4956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Ulph, Alistair & Valentini, Laura, 2000. "Environmental liability and the capital structure of firms," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0036, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  11. Shreekant Gupta & George Van Houtven & Maureen Cropper, 1996. "Paying for Permanence: An Economic Analysis of EPA's Cleanup Decisions at Superfund Sites," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 563-582, Autumn.
  12. Pitchford, Rohan, 1995. "How Liable Should a Lender Be? The Case of Judgment-Proof Firms and Environmental Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1171-86, December.
  13. Hilary Sigman, 1998. "Midnight Dumping: Public Policies and Illegal Disposal of Used Oil," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(1), pages 157-178, Spring.
  14. Titman, Sheridan & Wessels, Roberto, 1988. " The Determinants of Capital Structure Choice," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(1), pages 1-19, March.
  15. Tom H. Tietenberg, 1989. "Indivisible Toxic Torts: The Economics of Joint and Several Liability," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 65(4), pages 305-319.
  16. T. Randolph Beard, 1990. "Bankruptcy and Care Choice," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(4), pages 626-634, Winter.
  17. Boyd, James, 1996. "Banking on "Green Money:" Are Environmental Financial Responsibility Rules Fulfilling Their Promise?," Discussion Papers dp-96-26, Resources For the Future.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Loureiro, Maria L., 2008. "Liability and food safety provision: Empirical evidence from the US," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 204-211, September.
  2. Pierre Bentata, 2014. "Liability as a complement to environmental regulation: an empirical study of the French legal system," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 16(3), pages 201-228, July.
  3. Wayne B. Gray & Jay P. Shimshack, 2011. "The Effectiveness of Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement: A Review of the Empirical Evidence," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  4. Gonzalez, Fidel & Leipnik, Mark & Mazumder, Diya, 2013. "How much are urban residents in Mexico willing to pay for cleaner air?," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(03), pages 354-379, June.
  5. Hilary Sigman, 2006. "Environmental Liability and Redevelopment of Old Industrial Land," Departmental Working Papers 200609, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  6. Angelova, Vera & Attanasi, Giuseppe & Hiriart, Yolande, 2012. "Relative Performance of Liability Rules: Experimental Evidence," TSE Working Papers 12-304, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Sep 2012.
  7. Guerrero, Santiago & Innes, Robert, 2008. "Statutory Rewards to Environmental Self-Auditing: Do They Reduce Pollution and Save Regulatory Costs? Evidence from a Cross-State Panel," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6204, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  8. Sheila M. Olmstead, 2010. "The Economics of Water Quality," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(1), pages 44-62, Winter.
  9. Telle, Kjetil, 2013. "Monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 24-34.
  10. Kjetil Telle, 2012. "Monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations. Lessons from a natural field experiment in Norway," Discussion Papers 680, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  11. van 't Veld, Klaas & Hutchinson, Emma, 2009. "Excessive spending by firms to avoid accidents: Is it a concern in practice?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 324-335, December.
  12. Alfred Endres & Tim Friehe, 2012. "Generalized Progress of Abatement Technology: Incentives Under Environmental Liability Law," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 53(1), pages 61-71, September.

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