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Corporate Environmentalism and Environmental Statutory Permitting

Christopher S Decker

Journal of Law and Economics, 2003, vol. 46, issue 1, 103-29

Abstract: Studies have shown that despite infrequent inspections and low penalties for statutory violations, a large fraction of firms comply with environmental restrictions. What then motivates compliance? I investigate this question by focusing on the length of time it takes environmental agencies to process and issue new source construction permits pursuant to Clean Air Act regulations and new industrial discharge permits pursuant to Clean Water Act regulations. I find that plants (or firms) with fewer instances of noncompliance receive permits for major projects more quickly. In addition, I find that permit delays are sensitive to economic conditions as well, such as local area unemployment. As far as voluntary pollution control behavior is concerned, I find that regulators that issue permits for plant modifications focus primarily on statutory compliance, but when permitting new plant construction, where there is no plant compliance history to go on, voluntary pollutant releases do matter.

Date: 2003
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