Waste Not, Want Not: Economic and Legal Challenges of Regulation-Induced Changes in Waste Technology and Management
Beginning in the early 1990s, stricter government regulation to protect public health and the environment led to radical changes in waste technology and management in the United States. More stringent regulation induced wholly new technologies, including the lining of landfills, the control of their gas emissions, and changes in the economic scale and geographic location of operation. Economic integration of waste management transformed “the local dump” into a nationwide and modernized industry. These changes led to unprecedented intervention by local government in attempts to control price, quantity, and location-specific attributes of the $40 billion waste market. Regulatory-induced changes in markets have long been a topic of academic and policy interest, but unique in this case was the emergence of legal challenges—-under the dormant commerce clause—-concerning public governance and the private sector. This paper reviews the regulation-induced changes in the market, its subnational governmental interventions, and protection of interstate commerce when new technology restructures a local service into a national business.
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