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A dissolving paradox: Firms’ compliance to environmental regulation

  • Nyborg, Karine

    ()

    (Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research,)

  • Telle, Kjetil

    ()

    (Statistics Norway)

It has often been claimed that firms’ compliance to environmental regulations is higher than predicted by standard theory, a result labeled the “Harrington paradox” in the literature. Enforcement data from Norway presented here appears, at first glance, to confirm this “stylized fact”: Firms are inspected less than once a year, detected violators are seldom fined, but still, serious violations seem relatively rare. However, at a closer look, the paradox dissolves: Enforcement of minor violations is lax, but such violations do flourish; serious violations are more uncommon, but such violations are subject to credible threats of harsh punishment. This seems quite consistent with predictions from standard theory. Although our finding may of course apply to Norway only, we argue that the empirical existence of the Harrington paradox is not well documented in the literature. Hence, the claim that firms’ compliance with environmental regulations is higher than predicted by standard theory should be viewed with skepticism.

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File URL: http://www.sv.uio.no/econ/english/research/unpublished-works/working-papers/pdf-files/2004/Memo-02-2004.pdf
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Paper provided by Oslo University, Department of Economics in its series Memorandum with number 02/2004.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 04 Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Environmental and Resource Economics, 2006, pages 1-18.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2004_002
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway
Phone: 22 85 51 27
Fax: 22 85 50 35
Web page: http://www.oekonomi.uio.no/indexe.html
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  1. Harrington, Winston, 1988. "Enforcement leverage when penalties are restricted," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 29-53, October.
  2. Heyes, Anthony G., 1996. "Cutting environmental penalties to protect the environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 251-265, May.
  3. Laplante, Benoit & Rilstone, Paul, 1996. "Environmental Inspections and Emissions of the Pulp and Paper Industry in Quebec," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 19-36, July.
  4. Heyes, Anthony & Rickman, Neil, 1999. "Regulatory dealing - revisiting the Harrington paradox," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 361-378, June.
  5. Heyes, Anthony G, 1998. "Making Things Stick: Enforcement and Compliance," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(4), pages 50-63, Winter.
  6. Cropper, Maureen L & Oates, Wallace E, 1992. "Environmental Economics: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 675-740, June.
  7. Mary E. Deily & Wayne B. Gray, 1989. "Enforcement of pollution regulations in a declining industry," Working Paper 8912, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  8. Friesen, Lana, 2003. "Targeting enforcement to improve compliance with environmental regulations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 72-85, July.
  9. McKenna, C.J. & Livernois, J., 1996. "Truth or Consequences? Enforcing Pollution Standards," Working Papers 1996-7, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
  10. Nyborg, Karine & Telle, Kjetil, 2004. "The role of warnings in regulation: keeping control with less punishment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2801-2816, December.
  11. Erik Biørn & Rolf Golombek* & Arvid Raknerud, 1998. "Environmental Regulations and Plant Exit," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 11(1), pages 35-59, January.
  12. Earnhart, Dietrich, 1997. "Enforcement of Environmental Protection Laws under Communism and Democracy," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 377-402, October.
  13. Harford, Jon D., 2000. "Initial and Continuing Compliance and the Trade-Off between Monitoring and Control Cost," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 151-163, September.
  14. Harford, Jon D. & Harrington, Winston, 1991. "A reconsideration of enforcement leverage when penalties are restricted," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 391-395, August.
  15. Nadeau, Louis W., 1997. "EPA Effectiveness at Reducing the Duration of Plant-Level Noncompliance," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 54-78, September.
  16. Dasgupta, Susmita & Laplante, Benoit & Mamingi, Nlandu & Wang, Hua, 2001. "Inspections, pollution prices, and environmental performance: evidence from China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 487-498, March.
  17. Raymond, Mark, 1999. "Enforcement leverage when penalties are restricted: a reconsideration under asymmetric information," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 289-295, August.
  18. Livernois, John & McKenna, C. J., 1999. "Truth or consequences: Enforcing pollution standards with self-reporting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 415-440, March.
  19. Gray, Wayne B. & Deily, Mary E., 1996. "Compliance and Enforcement: Air Pollution Regulation in the U.S. Steel Industry," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 96-111, July.
  20. Decker, Christopher S, 2003. "Corporate Environmentalism and Environmental Statutory Permitting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(1), pages 103-29, April.
  21. Magat, Wesley A & Viscusi, W Kip, 1990. "Effectiveness of the EPA's Regulatory Enforcement: The Case of Industrial Effluent Standards," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 331-60, October.
  22. Earnhart, Dietrich, 2000. "Environmental Crime and Punishment in the Czech Republic: Penalties against Firms and Employees," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 379-399, June.
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