Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.
Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.
Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Establishing effective environmental policies is of considerable importance
around the world and becoming more crucial as human activities continue to change and
impact natural resources. The design of effective policies requires knowledge of the
mechanisms through which markets and individual behavior respond to environmental
risks. The following research focuses on the empirical estimation of such responses in
the presence of environmental risk to inform policy decisions. I apply econometric
methods to a variety of environmental issues, including flooding, environmental
disasters, and air pollution. My findings provide important information regarding the
setting of future policies related to each issue.
In the first chapter, “Estimating the Economic Impact of Stormwater runoff in the
Allen Creek Watershed,” written with Jeffrey Wagner, Karl Korfmacher, Daniel Lass and
Bríd Gleeson Hanna, we develop an economic model for stormwater runoff control to
quantify one important part of the tradeoff between the desirability of development
versus the consequential environmental challenges and economic costs associated with
increased flooding risk. Developing a theoretical model and illustrating its application in
the Allen Creek watershed, we account for heterogeneity in each parcel-level generation
of stormwater runoff to estimate the marginal implicit price of additional stormwater
runoff due to development on downstream property values. We translate this value to a
marginal damage figure specific to our study area and compare our results with a relevant
abatement cost estimate. Our comparison suggests a general result that policies
encouraging upstream abatement measures, such as retention ponds, are likely to be
The second chapter, “Information and Environmental Disasters: Valuing Public
Perception Regarding the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” written with Patrick Walsh,
quantifies the value of risk-signaling information in the context of shoreline oil wash-ups
from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. We analyze sale price and volume
responses in Hillsborough County, Florida, which ultimately experienced no wash-ups.
This chapter provides insight on the types of information that are salient for the
capitalization of perceived risk into home values and highlights an additional avenue for
economic losses from environmental catastrophes that has often been overlooked. Our
results suggest that the net impact of the heightened risk of oil wash-ups on coastal
homes was a ~4% reduction in sale prices between two and eight months after the DWH
oil spill, with the largest impact of a ~7% reduction in prices occurring in August and
September 2010. The timing of these price impacts suggests that specifically relevant
information regarding risk, coming from a source of authority is critical in driving risk
perceptions and ultimate price effects in the real estate market. Finally, our results
suggest a total capitalized loss of $4.5 million which highlights the importance of
considering a more comprehensive definition of damages, specifically accounting for
losses associated with public perception of risks, when compensating states and local
governments, as well as citizens, for losses due to environmental disasters.
In the final chapter, “Quantifying the Health Effects of Information on Pollution
Levels in Chile,” written with Jamie Mullins, we analyze a policy implemented by the
Government of Chile that institutes temporary measures to reduce negative impacts of
high levels of air pollution in the short run through both emissions restrictions and public
information campaigns. This policy includes public announcement of days for which
pollution is projected to exceed threshold levels, deemed ‘Episodes’. As Episodes serve
to both reduce air pollution and inform the public, this chapter separately identifies the
mortality reducing effects of Episode announcements acting through the channel of
information and avoidance behavior from the total effect of Episode announcements,
which includes effects attributable to improved air quality. We find that, holding PM10
constant, the estimated impacts of the Episodes’ informational effects have magnitudes
comparable to the estimated total effects of Episode announcements on the day of and
two days after an Episode announcement, indicating that information is playing a critical
role in the reduction of mortality following Episode announcements. Our results suggest
that little of the observed reduction in mortality following Episodes is attributable to
lower ambient air pollution in the most immediate days following an announcement,
despite the fact that air pollution does improve significantly following Episode
announcements. These results are important for informing the implementation of short term
approaches for addressing spikes in air pollution in other major urban centers.
Hellman, Kelly, "THREE ESSAYS ON THE EMPIRICAL ESTIMATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGES THROUGH MARKET AND HEALTH IMPACTS" (2018). Doctoral Dissertations. 1352.