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Nonpoint pollution control: Inducing first-best outcomes through the use of threats

  • Segerson, Kathleen
  • Wu, JunJie

In this paper we develop a simple economic model to analyze the use of a policy that combines a voluntary approach to controlling nonpoint-source pollution with a background threat of an ambient tax if the voluntary approach is unsuccessful in meeting a pre-specified environmental goal. We first consider the case where the policy is applied to a single farmer, and then extend the analysis to the case where the policy is applied to a group of farmers. We show that in either case such a policy can induce cost-minimizing abatement without the need for farm-specific information. In this sense, the combined policy approach is not only more effective in protecting environmental quality than a pure voluntary approach (which does not ensure that water quality goals are met) but also less costly than a pure ambient tax approach (since it entails lower information costs). However, when the policy is applied to a group of farmers, we show that there is a potential tradeoff in the design of the policy. In this context, lowering the cutoff level of pollution used for determining total tax payments increases the likely effectiveness of the combined approach but also increases the potential for free riding. By setting the cutoff level equal to the target level of pollution, the regulator can eliminate free riding and ensure that cost-minimizing abatement is the unique Nash equilibrium under which the target is met voluntarily. However, this cutoff level also ensures that zero voluntary abatement is a Nash equilibrium. In addition, with this cutoff level the equilibrium under which the target is met voluntarily will not strictly dominate the equilibrium under which it is not. We show that all results still hold if the background threat instead takes the form of reducing government subsidies if a pre-specified environmental goal is not met.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Volume (Year): 51 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (March)
Pages: 165-184

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:51:y:2006:i:2:p:165-184
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622870

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  2. Cooper, Joseph C. & Keim, Russ, 1996. "Incentive payments to encourage farmer adoption of water quality protection practices," MPRA Paper 24779, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. McAfee, R Preston & McMillan, John, 1991. "Optimal Contracts for Teams," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 32(3), pages 561-77, August.
  4. Herriges, Joseph A. & Shogren, Jason F. & Govindasamy, R., 1994. "Budget Balancing Incentive Mechanisms," Staff General Research Papers 1503, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  5. Wu, JunJie & Babcock, Bruce A., 1999. "The Relative Efficiency of Voluntary vs Mandatory Environmental Regulations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 158-175, September.
  6. Wu, JunJie & Babcock, Bruce A., 1995. "Optimal Design Of A Voluntary Green Payment Program Under Asymmetric Information," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 20(02), December.
  7. JunJie Wu & Bruce A. Babcock, 1996. "Contract Design for the Purchase of Environmental Goods from Agriculture," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(4), pages 935-945.
  8. Nancy Anders Norton & Tim T. Phipps & Jerald J. Fletcher, 1994. "Role Of Voluntary Programs In Agricultural Nonpoint Pollution Policy," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 12(1), pages 113-121, 01.
  9. Nalbantian, Haig R & Schotter, Andrew, 1997. "Productivity under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 314-41, June.
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  11. Segerson, Kathleen & Miceli, Thomas J., 1998. "Voluntary Environmental Agreements: Good or Bad News for Environmental Protection?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 109-130, September.
  12. Na Li Dawson & Kathleen Segerson, 2008. "Voluntary Agreements with Industries: Participation Incentives with Industry-Wide Targets," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 84(1), pages 97-114.
  13. Xepapadeas, A. P., 1991. "Environmental policy under imperfect information: Incentives and moral hazard," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 113-126, March.
  14. John Spraggon, 1998. "Exogenous Targeting Instruments as a Solution to Group Moral Hazards," Department of Economics Working Papers 1998-01, McMaster University.
  15. Anastasios Xepapadeas, . "Observability And Choice Of Instrument Mix In The Control Of Externalities," Working Papers 9401, University of Crete, Department of Economics.
  16. David Zilberman, 1996. "The Economics of a Public Fund for Environmental Amenities: A Study of CRP Contracts," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(4), pages 961-971.
  17. Babcock, Bruce A. & Lakshminarayan, P. G. & Wu, JunJie & Zilberman, David, 1996. "Economics of a Public Fund for Environmental Amenities (The)," Staff General Research Papers 1065, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  18. Innes, Robert D., 1990. "Limited liability and incentive contracting with ex-ante action choices," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 45-67, October.
  19. Xepapadeas, A. P., 1992. "Environmental policy design and dynamic nonpoint-source pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 22-39, July.
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  22. Wu, JunJie & Teague, Mark L. & Mapp, Harry P. & Bernardo, Daniel J., 1995. "An Empirical Analysis of the Relative Efficiency of Policy Instruments to Reduce Nitrate Water Pollution in the U.S. Southern High Plains," Staff General Research Papers 921, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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