Controlling Pollution with Relaxed Regulations
We investigate the features of optimal environmental policies composed of pollution standards and costly inspection processes, where fines for exceeding the standards depend both on the degree of transgression and the environmental technology that the firm uses to reduce the social impact of its polluting activity. We show that the main characteristics of these policies depend crucially on when the firm selects that technology with respect to the timing of the policy announcement. In fact, the firm has incentives to over-invest in green technologies when the policy is announced afterwards; and to under-invest in them if the environmental authority plays first. Surprisingly, we find that both the firm and the regulator prefer that the firm invests in technology before the policy is announced, even when this implies that expected penalties for noncompliance might be zero.
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