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Endogenous Decentralization in Federal Environmental Policies

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  • Howard Chang
  • Hilary Sigman
  • Leah G. Traub

Abstract

Under most federal environmental laws and some health and safety laws, states may apply for "primacy," that is, authority to implement and enforce federal law, through a process known as "authorization." Some observers fear that states use authorization to adopt more lax policies in a regulatory "race to the bottom." This paper presents a simple model of the interaction between the federal and state governments in such a scheme of partial decentralization. Our model suggests that the authorization option may not only increase social welfare but also allow more stringent environmental regulations than would otherwise be feasible. Our model also suggests that the federal government may choose its policies so that states that desire more strict regulation authorize, while other states remain under the federal program. We then test this hypothesis using data on federal regulation of water pollution and of hazardous waste, which are two of the most important environmental programs to allow authorization. We find that states that prefer more environmental protection authorize more quickly under both policies. This evidence suggests that states seek authorization to adopt more strict policies instead of more lax policies compared to federal policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Howard Chang & Hilary Sigman & Leah G. Traub, 2007. "Endogenous Decentralization in Federal Environmental Policies," NBER Working Papers 13238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13238
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Libman, Alexander, 2010. "Constitutions, regulations, and taxes: Contradictions of different aspects of decentralization," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 395-418, December.
    2. Millimet, Daniel L., 2013. "Environmental Federalism: A Survey of the Empirical Literature," IZA Discussion Papers 7831, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Libman, A., 2010. "Empirical Research on Determinants of Decentralization: A Literature Survey," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, issue 6, pages 10-29.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

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