Growing State-Federal Conflicts in Environmental Policy: The Role of Market-Based Regulation

27 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2010 Last revised: 22 Sep 2010

See all articles by Roberton C. Williams

Roberton C. Williams

University of Maryland - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Resources for the Future

Date Written: July 2010

Abstract

In recent years, cases in which state governments chose to override federal environmental regulation with tighter regulations of their own have become increasingly common, even for pollutants that have substantial spillovers across states. This paper argues that this change arose at least in part because of a shift in the type of regulation used at the federal level, from command-and-control regulation toward more incentive-based regulation. Under an incentive-based federal regulation, a state imposing a tighter regulation will bear only part of the additional cost, and thus has more incentive to tighten regulation than it does under federal command-and-control. This difference helps to explain observed patterns of regulation. In addition, it has implications for the choice of regulatory instruments. For a pollutant that causes both local and spillover damage, a federal pollution tax is likely to yield a more efficient outcome than federal command-and-control policy or a federal system of tradable permits.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Roberton C., Growing State-Federal Conflicts in Environmental Policy: The Role of Market-Based Regulation (July 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16184, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1636652

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