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Three essays on government decision-making to implement and enforce environmental policies

Kristin Ellen Skrabis, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The first essay, "Federalism in Environmental Policy," explores the question of how Congress should decide on implementation of environmental statutes. This issue arises from the hypothesis that the historical pattern of U.S. federalism has led to ineffective implementation of environmental laws at the state level. We use a case-study approach to focus on the transboundary pollution problem of acid rain. Drawing from the basic philosophy of federalism, we analyze the strengths and weaknesses of four arguments for state policy responses to pollution problems, including: (1) severity, (2) wealth, (3) partisanship, and (4) organizational capacity. These arguments are evaluated using a geographic information system and then incorporated into an econometric model to identify the determinants of state decisions on transboundary air pollution. Based on the econometric results and the basic theory of federalism, we develop economic criteria to explore how congressional decisionmakers may more systematically choose state, regional, or national implementation of environmental laws based on instate and external benefits and costs of the individual statute. In the second essay, "Compliance and Enforcement Issues, A Case Study of Massachusetts' Environmental Results Program," we present a theoretical model of a firm's decision to comply with performance standards. The model is motivated by recent efforts in Massachusetts to adopt a more flexible environmental management strategy, the "Environmental Results Program" (ERP). This program has two main components: (1) development of performance standards, and (2) implementation of a self-certification program for environmental compliance. Because the standard pollution control model fails to capture the importance of monitoring, enforcement, and penalties, we modified it to incorporate a firm's private compliance decisions. The resulting marginal private benefit function represents the avoided costs of punishment based on a probability of being caught in non-compliance. Finally, the third essay, "The Penalty-Compliance Tradeoff in Enforcement by States," presents a game theoretic model of a firm's compliance with performance standards and self-certification. The model builds on standard enforcement theory and the case study of the ERP in an effort to evaluate the strategic interaction between control agencies and regulated facilities.

Subject Area

Public administration|Economics|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Skrabis, Kristin Ellen, "Three essays on government decision-making to implement and enforce environmental policies" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809400.