The Pace of Progress at Superfund Sites: Policy Goals and Interest Group Influence
Bureaucracies may set priorities for their workload in response to social goals or pressures from concentrated private interests. This paper explores bureaucratic priorities empirically by studying Superfund, the federal program for cleaning up contaminated sites. It examines the amount of time that sites on Superfund's National Priorities List require to complete three stages from listing to cleanup, using an econometric method for multiple sequential durations. The empirical results provide little evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prioritizes sites according to their harms. By contrast, concentrated private interests, such as liable parties and local communities, play an important role in the EPA's priorities. Delays caused by liable parties may reduce net benefits of cleanup by 8 percent. This result suggests a benefit from funding provision of environmental quality and other public goods through diffuse sources, such as broad-based taxes, to avoid the detrimental effects of such concentrated interests. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.
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