Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Government as pollution violator

It’s a familiar libertarian insight that regulation often holds government itself to lower standards than it does private actors. Pension funds for public employees are mostly immune from the federal solvency and funding requirements that apply to their private counterparts; Federal Trade Commission rules against false advertising by private companies do not restrain false advertising by government actors on the same topics; the FTC can fine companies massively for data breaches even as the federal government itself suffers gigantic losses of sensitive data to foreign actors with few, if any, visible career consequences for those who had dozed; anticompetitive practices per se illegal under antitrust law become legal when the states engage in them, and so on and so forth.

Now David Konisky of Indiana University and Manuel Teodoro of Texas A&M, in a study published by the American Journal of Political Science entitled “When Governments Regulate Governments,” have taken a look at some data:

Our empirical subjects are public and private entities’ compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. We find that, compared with private firms, governments violate these laws significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations.

More from an Indiana press release via Tyler Cowen:

For the study, Konisky and Teodoro examined records from 2000 to 2011 for power plants and hospitals regulated under the Clean Air Act and from 2010 to 2013 for water utilities regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The study included over 3,000 power plants, over 1,000 hospitals and over 4,200 water utilities — some privately owned and others owned by public agencies.

* For power plants and hospitals, public facilities were on average 9 percent more likely to be out of compliance with Clean Air Act regulations and 20 percent more likely to have committed high-priority violations.

* For water utilities, public facilities had on average 14 percent more Safe Drinking Water Act health violations and were 29 percent more likely to commit monitoring violations.

* Public power plants and hospitals that violated the Clean Air Act were 1 percent less likely than private-sector violators to receive a punitive sanction and 20 percent less likely to be fined.

*Public water utilities that violated Safe Drinking Water Act standards were 3 percent less likely than investor-owned utilities to receive formal enforcement actions.

[After speculating that public operators may find it harder to raise funds promptly for needed facilities improvements:] Public entities also face lower costs for violating the regulations, the authors argue. There is evidence from other studies that they are able to delay or avoid paying fines when penalties are assessed. And officials with regulatory agencies may be sympathetic to violations by public entities, because they understand the difficulty of securing resources in the public sector.

Application of the principle to state-owned industry outside the United States can be left as an exercise for the reader. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).

NYT public editor: yes, nail salon series had problems

Poynter: “A blockbuster investigation from The New York Times that provoked officials to intervene in poor workplace conditions in nail salons throughout New York ‘went too far in generalizing about an entire industry,’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Friday morning.” That’s, well, cautiously worded: as critics have demonstrated, the series got basic facts wrong and its falsehoods have hurt thousands of New Yorkers, especially struggling immigrants, in multiple ways.

Major congratulations to Jim Epstein, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and the others at Reason and elsewhere who relentlessly exposed the faults in the Times coverage. And Sullivan’s letter is revealing about just why editors until now ignored Epstein’s Reason coverage, which blew up some of the series’ central allegations about advertised pay rates in the Chinese-language press and about supposed clusters of health effects. “The Times has not responded [because] editors think the magazine, which generally opposes regulation, [is] biased.” Some Twitter responses:

Environment roundup

Environment roundup

Environment roundup

  • I own a Volkswagen clean diesel myself, and can recommend its terrific fuel economy and peppy performance. It’s almost too good to be true [Clive Crook on policy background] Class action lawyers expect huge payday from scandal, but their emissions might not be very reliable either [Daniel Fisher] More from Fisher: will VW owners actually take their vehicles in for the recall? and more on litigation prospects [More: Car and Driver];
  • Housing advocates looking for plaintiffs to sue Bay Area town that refuses to make its housing supply denser [CityLab]
  • Behind court’s strikedown of NYC Styrofoam ban [Erik Engquist, Crain’s New York; Entrepreneur]
  • “Did Flint, Michigan Just Lead Poison Its Children? Doctors Think So.” [Russell Saunders, The Daily Beast]
  • “Global regulatory norms” favored by pontiff “would globalize Argentina’s downward mobility.” [George Will]
  • After long silence, Hillary Clinton declares opposition to Keystone XL pipeline [Politico, more]
  • Houston: “For the most part, we don’t look all that different from other big cities that do have zoning.” [The Urban Edge; Kinder Institute, Rice U.]

Environment roundup

  • Study: California’s high-profile CEQA environmental-review law is used heavily against public, not just private projects, particularly environmental, transit, and renewable-energy projects [Holland & Knight; more, George Skelton, L.A. Times] Estimate: needless delays in infrastructure permitting methods cost U.S. economy $3.7 trillion [Common Good]
  • “‘[F]ive White Pelicans, twenty (regular old) Ducks, two Northern Shoveler Ducks, four Double Crested Cormorants, one Lesser Scaup Duck, one Black-Bellied Whistling Tree Duck, one Blue-Winged Teal Duck, and one Fulvous Whistling Tree Duck’ met their untimely end in an open oil tank owned by CITGO. Did CITGO ‘take’ these birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918? Fifth Circuit: There’s a circuit split, but we say no.” [John Ross, Institute for Justice “Short Circuit”]
  • Judge: no, “waters of the United States” don’t include dry land over which water sometimes flows [Andrew Grossman, Cato]
  • Just as we were getting ready with jokes about a wind shortage comes word that maybe there isn’t one [Tyler Cowen, AWEA blog]
  • After the West’s outrage-binge over lion trophy hunting, African villagers feel the repercussions: “Now they are going back to hating animals.” [New York Times]
  • “Solyndra: A Case Study in Green Energy, Cronyism, and the Failure of Central Planning” [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Serving municipal water without charges makes for both an economic and an environmental fiasco. Who will tell that to Ireland’s #right2water marchers? [Telesur TV, Charles Fishman/National Geographic]

Environment roundup

  • Safe Drinking Water Act along with other federal laws helped scare consumers away from public fountains and tap water, with unintended bad consequences for health and the environment [Kendra Pierre-Louis, Washington Post]
  • Austin, Tex. ban on plastic bags isn’t working out as intended [Adam Minter, Bloomberg View]
  • After BP’s $18.7 billion settlement with five Gulf states, here come huge private lawyer paydays [Louisiana Record]
  • Energy efficiency in durable goods: mandates “based on weak or nonexistent evidence of consumer irrationality” with government itself hardly free of behavioral biases [Tyler Cowen]
  • “How Trophy Hunting Can Save Lions” [Terry Anderson and Shawn Regan, PERC/WSJ]
  • CPSC’s hard line on CPSIA testing of natural materials in toys based on “precautionary principle run amuck” [Nancy Nord]
  • Is the ideal of sustainability one we ultimately owe to hunter-gatherers? [Arnold Kling]

Environment roundup

Environmental roundup

  • “Environmental review makes it hard to do anything — even make a new bike lane” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]
  • Outdoors education: don’t just treat nature as a museum for kids, let them play in it [Lenore Skenazy]
  • Not more outcry? “Philadelphia To Seize 1,330 Properties For Public Redevelopment” [Scott Beyer, more]
  • Influencing proceedings against Chevron: “Documents Reveal Ecuadorian Government Organized Protests on U.S. Soil” [Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon]
  • Inholders can be caught in maze of jurisdictional obstacles when attempting to challenge federal land takings, Nevada church deprived of former water use deserves a remedy [Ilya Shapiro, Cato on cert petition in Ministerio Roca Solida v. United States]
  • Touchy legacy for HUD today: New Deal housing programs advanced segregation, sometimes on purpose [Coyote]
  • Payouts in BP Gulf spill headed for $68 billion, much going to uninjured parties, sending message to overseas investors not to invest in US [Collin Eaton, San Antonio Express-News] Bad results in BP episode will help teach Takata and other mass tort defendants not to try the “right thing” again [Joseph Nocera, N.Y. Times]

Environment roundup