Retroactive Liability or the Public Purse?
The article addresses the question of whether responsibility for pollution created in the past should be retroactively applied to firms, or if the costs of cleaning up existing pollution should be financed by the public. We show that making firms liable for retrospective environmental costs can weaken the incentive to take precautions against future environmental costs. This follows since public financing of these costs can lead to greater prospective risk deterrence by allowing firms to more fully internalize the costs of future environmental risks. However, an analysis of existing public financing approaches highlights a set of dangers associated with their practical use. Copyright 1997 by Kluwer Academic Publishers
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