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Assessing the Accuracy of Self-Reported Data: an Evaluation of the Toxics Release Inventory

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  • Scott Marchi

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  • James Hamilton

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Abstract

Self-reported regulatory data are hard to verify. This article compares air emissions reported by plants in the Toxics Release Inventory with chemical concentration levels measured by EPA pollution monitors. We find that the large drops in air emissions reported by firms in the TRI are not always matched by similar reductions in measured concentrations from EPA monitors. When the first digits of the monitored chemical concentrations follow a monotonically decreasing distribution, we expect (via Benford's Law) a similar distribution of first digits for the TRI data. For lead and nitric acid the self-reported data do not follow the expected first digit pattern. This suggests that for these two heavily regulated chemicals plants are not reporting accurate estimates of their air emissions. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Marchi & James Hamilton, 2006. "Assessing the Accuracy of Self-Reported Data: an Evaluation of the Toxics Release Inventory," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 57-76, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:32:y:2006:i:1:p:57-76
    DOI: 10.1007/s10797-006-6666-3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. H. Spencer Banzhaf & Randall P. Walsh, 2010. "Segregation and Tiebout Sorting: Investigating the Link between Investments in Public Goods and Neighborhood Tipping," NBER Working Papers 16057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Nicholas J. Sanders, 2012. "Toxic Assets: How the Housing Market Responds to Environmental Information Shocks," Working Papers 128, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    3. Janet Currie & Johannes F. Schmieder, 2009. "Fetal Exposures to Toxic Releases and Infant Health," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 177-183, May.
    4. Finger, Stephen R. & Gamper-Rabindran, Shanti, 2013. "Mandatory disclosure of plant emissions into the environment and worker chemical exposure inside plants," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 124-136.
    5. Brooks M. Depro & Christopher Timmins & Maggie O'Neil, 2012. "Meeting Urban Housing Needs: Do People Really Come to the Nuisance?," NBER Working Papers 18109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Janet Currie & Lucas Davis & Michael Greenstone & Reed Walker, 2013. "Do Housing Prices Reflect Environmental Health Risks? Evidence from More than 1600 Toxic Plant Openings and Closings," NBER Working Papers 18700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alm, James & Shimshack, Jay, 2014. "Environmental Enforcement and Compliance: Lessons from Pollution, Safety, and Tax Settings," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 10(4), pages 209-274, December.
    8. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
    9. Färe, Rolf & Grosskopf, Shawna & Pasurka, Carl Jr., 2010. "Toxic releases: An environmental performance index for coal-fired power plants," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 158-165, January.
    10. Auffhammer, Maximilian & Carson, Richard T., 2008. "Forecasting the path of China's CO2 emissions using province-level information," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 229-247, May.
    11. Thomas Stoerk, 2015. "Statistical corruption in Beijing’s air quality data has likely ended in 2012," GRI Working Papers 194, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    12. repec:eee:jeeman:v:84:y:2017:i:c:p:62-83 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Evans, Mary F. & Liu, Lirong & Stafford, Sarah L., 2015. "Standardization and the impacts of voluntary program participation: Evidence from environmental auditing," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 10-21.
    14. Hyunhoe Bae, 2012. "Reducing Environmental Risks by Information Disclosure: Evidence in Residential Lead Paint Disclosure Rule," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(2), pages 404-431, March.
    15. Andreas Oestreich, 2015. "Firms’ Emissions and Self-Reporting Under Competitive Audit Mechanisms," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 62(4), pages 949-978, December.
    16. Andersen, Dana C., 2017. "Default Risk, Productivity, and the Environment: Theory and Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing," Working Papers 2017-8, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
    17. Janet Currie, 2011. "Ungleichheiten bei der Geburt: Einige Ursachen und Folgen," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(s1), pages 42-65, May.
    18. Grendar, Marian & Judge, George & Schechter, Laura, 2007. "An empirical non-parametric likelihood family of data-based Benford-like distributions," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 380(C), pages 429-438.
    19. Lin, Liguo, 2013. "Enforcement of pollution levies in China," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 32-43.
    20. Sammy Zahran & Terrence Iverson & Stephan Weiler & Anthony Underwood, 2014. "Evidence that the accuracy of self-reported lead emissions data improved: A puzzle and discussion," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 235-257, December.
    21. Banzhaf, H. Spencer & Walsh, Randall P., 2013. "Segregation and Tiebout sorting: The link between place-based investments and neighborhood tipping," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 83-98.
    22. repec:eee:jeeman:v:84:y:2017:i:c:p:189-208 is not listed on IDEAS
    23. Louie Rivers & Tamara Dempsey & Jade Mitchell & Carole Gibbs, 2015. "Environmental Regulation and Enforcement: Structures, Processes and the Use of Data for Fraud Detection," Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management (JEAPM), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 17(04), pages 1-29, December.

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