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The Effectiveness of Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement: A Review of the Empirical Evidence

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  • Wayne B. Gray
  • Jay P. Shimshack

Abstract

Regulatory punishment for pollution violations is a mainstay of nearly every industrialized nation's environmental policy. This article reviews the existing empirical evidence on the impacts of environmental monitoring and enforcement actions. We first provide context by investigating the U.S. regulatory setting. We then briefly discuss how economists think about environmental enforcement. We next consider recent empirical evidence linking regulator actions to subsequent pollution discharges and compliance behavior. Since the literature primarily studies U.S. institutions, our review focuses mainly on the effects of Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. state activities. The consistent findings from this literature review are as follows: (1) environmental monitoring and enforcement activities generate substantial specific deterrence, reducing future violations at the targeted firm; (2) environmental monitoring and enforcement activities generate substantial general deterrence, reducing future violations at facilities other than the targeted one; and (3) environmental monitoring and enforcement activities generate not only reductions in violations but also significant reductions in emissions. We conclude by discussing policy implications and identifying gaps in the current state of knowledge. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:5:y:2011:i:1:p:3-24
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