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The Pace of Progress at Superfund Sites: Policy Goals and Interest Group Influence

  • Sigman, Hilary

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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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 44 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 315-44

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:44:y:2001:i:1:p:315-44
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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  1. Viscusi, W. Kip & Hamilton, James T. & Dockins, P. Christen, 1997. "Conservative versus Mean Risk Assessments: Implications for Superfund Policies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 187-206, November.
  2. Revesz, Richard L. & Stavins, Robert N., 2007. "Environmental Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
  3. Heckman, James J. & Singer, Burton, 1984. "Econometric duration analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 63-132.
  4. James T. Hamilton, 1993. "Politics and Social Costs: Estimating the Impact of Collective Action on Hazardous Waste Facilities," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(1), pages 101-125, Spring.
  5. Shreekant Gupta & George Van Houtven & Maureen Cropper, 1996. "Paying for Permanence: An Economic Analysis of EPA's Cleanup Decisions at Superfund Sites," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 563-582, Autumn.
  6. James T. Hamilton & W. Kip Viscusi, 1999. "Calculating Risks?: The Spatial and Political Dimensions of Hazardous Waste Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262082780, June.
  7. Sigman, Hilary, 1998. "Liability Funding and Superfund Clean-Up Remedies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 205-224, May.
  8. James T. Hamilton & W. Kip Viscusi, 1999. "How costly is “clean”? An analysis of the benefits and costs of Superfund site remediations," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(1), pages 2-27.
  9. Weingast, Barry R & Moran, Mark J, 1983. "Bureaucratic Discretion or Congressional Control? Regulatory Policymaking by the Federal Trade Commission," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(5), pages 765-800, October.
  10. Heckman, James J & Walker, James R, 1990. "The Relationship between Wages and Income and the Timing and Spacing of Births: Evidence from Swedish Longitudinal Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1411-41, November.
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