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Attitudes Toward Managing Hazardous Waste: What Should Be Cleaned Up and Who Should Pay for It?


  • Jonathan Baron
  • Rajeev Gowda
  • Howard Kunreuther


Hazardous waste policy in the United States uses a liability‐based approach, including strict, retroactive, and joint and several liability. To assess attitudes toward these basic principles of liability, and toward priorities for clean‐up of wastes, a questionnaire was mailed to legislators, judges, executives of oil and chemical companies, environmentalists, and economists. The questionnaire consisted of abstract, simplified cases, which contrasted basic principles rather than dealing with real‐world scenarios. Subjects were asked how they would allocate clean‐up costs between companies and government as a function of such factors as adherence to standards, adoption of best available technology (BAT), and influence of penalties on future behavior. Most subjects felt that, if the company followed government standards or used the best available technology (BAT), it should pay for only a portion of the clean‐up cost, with the government paying the rest. In general, responses did not support the principles underlying current law–strict, retroactive, and joint‐and‐several liability. Most subjects were more interested in polluters paying for damages than in deterrence or future benefit–even to the extent that they would have “harmless” waste sites cleaned up. A bias was found toward complete clean‐up of some sites, or “zero risk.” Different groups of subjects gave similar answers, although more committed environmentalists were more willing to make companies pay and to clean up waste regardless of the cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Baron & Rajeev Gowda & Howard Kunreuther, 1993. "Attitudes Toward Managing Hazardous Waste: What Should Be Cleaned Up and Who Should Pay for It?," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 13(2), pages 183-192, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:riskan:v:13:y:1993:i:2:p:183-192
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.1993.tb01068.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Baron, Jonathan & Ritov, Ilana, 2004. "Omission bias, individual differences, and normality," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 74-85, July.
    2. Dorte Gyrd‐Hansen & Ivar Sønbø Kristiansen & Jørgen Nexøe & Jesper Bo Nielsen, 2003. "How Do Individuals Apply Risk Information When Choosing Among Health Care Interventions?," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 23(4), pages 697-704, August.
    3. Adam Karbowski, 2015. "Kartele w trzech perspektywach: neoklasycznej, behawioralnej oraz etycznej," Gospodarka Narodowa. The Polish Journal of Economics, Warsaw School of Economics, issue 3, pages 5-26.
    4. Nicolas Baumard, 2011. "Punishment is not a group adaptation," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 10(1), pages 1-26, June.
    5. L. Robin Keller & Rakesh K. Sarin, 1995. "Fair Processes for Societal Decisions Involving Distributional Inequalities," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 15(1), pages 49-59, February.

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