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Cross -media transfers of pollution and risk

Janine Marie Dombrowski, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The traditional approach to U.S. environmental policy has been to regulate emissions to air, land and water separately. Recognizing that efforts to enforce medium-specific environmental regulations are also medium-specific, we hypothesize that the enforcement of regulations pertaining to one environment medium may cause polluters to alter their releases to other media. This dissertation examines the impacts of the enforcement of air and water regulations faced by the U.S. pulp industry on their toxic chemical releases to air and water pathways and the human-health risks associated with these releases. The results suggest that pulp facilities respond to a greater number of inspections for compliance to air regulations by reducing their TRI emissions to water pathways. On the other hand, these firms seem to respond to a greater number of inspections for water regulation compliance and efforts taken against violators of water regulations by increasing their toxic chemical releases to air pathways. Using the EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators Model enforcement-induced cross-media transfers of human-health risks from air and water releases of toxic chemicals are also examined. This study finds that cross-media risk impacts can differ substantially from cross-media release impacts. Additionally, TRI release trends and their associated human-health risks are examined for the U.S. pulp industry between 1988 and 1997. This analysis finds that while combined air and water releases did not change much during the decade, the overall risk impact of these releases declined by more than 70%. The results suggest that setting environmental goals that focus solely on reducing the volume of toxic releases may produce unfortunate outcomes. This work also presents a theoretical model of firm behavior. The factors that determine whether a firm responds to a tighter control on its emissions into one medium by increasing or decreasing its emissions into another are derived; that is, whether emissions into two media can be characterized as substitutes or as complements. The analysis finds that characterizing cross-media transfers depends in large part on how the marginal costs of controlling releases into one medium are affected by a change in releases to another medium.

Subject Area

Economics|Economic theory|Public administration|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Dombrowski, Janine Marie, "Cross -media transfers of pollution and risk" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988778.