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Accidents Waiting to Happen: Liability Policy and Toxic Pollution Releases

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  • Austin, David
  • Alberini, Anna

Abstract

Proponents of environmental policies based on liability assert that strict liability imposed on the polluter will induce firms to handle hazardous wastes properly and to avoid disposing them into the environment. Economic theory and a few well-publicized cases, however, suggest that a number of factors may dilute the incentives posed by strict liability. In this paper, the authors run regressions relating unintended releases of pollution into the environment (aggregated at the state level, and followed over nine years from 1987 to 1995) to the imposition of strict liability on the polluter, exploiting variation across states in the liability provisions of their mini-Superfund laws, and in the years these were adopted. The authors experiment with instrumental variable estimation, fixed effects, and endogenous switching, and find that only after they explicitly model the endogeneity of states' liability laws is strict liability seen as reducing the seriousness of spills and releases. They also find evidence consistent with the notion that under strict liability, firms may spin off into, or delegate riskier production processes to, smaller firms, which are partially sheltered from liability. This tendency appears to be widespread.

Suggested Citation

  • Austin, David & Alberini, Anna, 1999. "Accidents Waiting to Happen: Liability Policy and Toxic Pollution Releases," Discussion Papers dp-99-29, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-99-29
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Vera Angelova & Olivier Armantier & Giuseppe Attanasi & Yolande Hiriart, 2014. "Relative performance of liability rules: experimental evidence," Theory and Decision, Springer, pages 531-556.
    2. Pierre Bentata, 2014. "Liability as a complement to environmental regulation: an empirical study of the French legal system," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 16(3), pages 201-228, July.
    3. Guerrero, Santiago & Innes, Robert, 2008. "Statutory Rewards to Environmental Self-Auditing: Do They Reduce Pollution and Save Regulatory Costs? Evidence from a Cross-State Panel," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6204, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    4. Kjetil Telle, 2012. "Monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations. Lessons from a natural field experiment in Norway," Discussion Papers 680, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    5. Wayne B. Gray & Jay P. Shimshack, 2011. "The Effectiveness of Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement: A Review of the Empirical Evidence," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    6. Gonzalez, Fidel & Leipnik, Mark & Mazumder, Diya, 2013. "How much are urban residents in Mexico willing to pay for cleaner air?," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(03), pages 354-379, June.
    7. Sheila M. Olmstead, 2010. "The Economics of Water Quality," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(1), pages 44-62, Winter.
    8. Hilary Sigman, 2010. "Environmental Liability and Redevelopment of Old Industrial Land," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(2), pages 289-306, May.
    9. Alló, Maria & Loureiro, Maria L., 2013. "Estimating a meta-damage regression model for large accidental oil spills," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 167-175.
    10. Alfred Endres & Tim Friehe, 2012. "Generalized Progress of Abatement Technology: Incentives Under Environmental Liability Law," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 53(1), pages 61-71, September.
    11. Telle, Kjetil, 2013. "Monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 24-34.
    12. Alm, James & Shimshack, Jay, 2014. "Environmental Enforcement and Compliance: Lessons from Pollution, Safety, and Tax Settings," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 10(4), pages 209-274, December.
    13. Alessio D'Amato & Massimiliano Mazzanti & Francesco Nicolli & Mariangela Zoli, 2014. "Illegal Waste Disposal, Territorial Enforcement and Policy. Evidence from regional data," SEEDS Working Papers 0314, SEEDS, Sustainability Environmental Economics and Dynamics Studies, revised Feb 2014.
    14. Loureiro, Maria L., 2008. "Liability and food safety provision: Empirical evidence from the US," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 204-211, September.
    15. Olmstead, Sheila & Richardson, Nathan, 2014. "Managing the Risks of Shale Gas Development Using Innovative Legal and Regulatory Approaches," Discussion Papers dp-14-15, Resources For the Future.
    16. van 't Veld, Klaas & Hutchinson, Emma, 2009. "Excessive spending by firms to avoid accidents: Is it a concern in practice?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 324-335, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    strict liability; negligence; hazardous waste; state environmental policy; endogenous policy adoption;

    JEL classification:

    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics

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