Findings

Not in my backyard

Kevin Lewis

November 18, 2015

Environmental Law and the End of the New Deal Order

Paul Sabin
Law and History Review, November 2015, Pages 965-1003

Abstract:
"I don't think there was ever a field of law which developed as explosively and dramatically as environmental law," David Sive, a pioneering environmental lawyer, declared in a 1982 interview. "It was the great romance." Along with new state and federal regulatory agencies and more than a dozen major environmental statutes passed in the 1970s, fledgling public interest environmental law firms emerged as a major force in national politics. The most prominent organizations, founded between 1967 and 1971, included the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Public Advocates and the Center for Law in the Public Interest, two California-based firms founded during these same years, also initiated key litigation. These small but powerful legal organizations - all predominantly funded by the Ford Foundation - quickly achieved landmark victories that helped to define the early successes of modern environmentalism. They delayed the Alaskan pipeline for more than 3 years, defeated a Disney resort proposed for the Sierra Nevada mountains, and helped push the pesticide DDT off the market in the United States. The organizations also foiled myriad plans for highways, airports, and power plants and pressed agencies to implement new environmental laws in the 1979s.

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Polluting politics

Louis-Philippe Beland & Vincent Boucher
Economics Letters, December 2015, Pages 176-181

Abstract:
This paper estimates the causal impact of Democratic vs Republican governors on pollution. Using a regression discontinuity design, gubernatorial election data, and air quality data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we find that air pollution is lower under Democratic governors.

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Geographic Dispersion of Economic Shocks: Evidence from the Fracking Revolution

James Feyrer, Erin Mansur & Bruce Sacerdote
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
The combining of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing unleashed a boom in oil and natural gas production in the US. This technological shift interacts with local geology to create an exogenous shock to county income and employment. We measure the effects of these shocks within the county where production occurs and track their geographic propagation. Every million dollars of oil and gas extracted produces $66,000 in wage income, $61,000 in royalty payments, and 0.78 jobs within the county. Outside the immediate county but within the region, the economic impacts are over three times larger. Within 100 miles of the new production, one million dollars generates $243,000 in wages, $117,000 in royalties, and 2.49 jobs. Thus, over a third of the fracking revenue stays within the regional economy. Our results suggest new oil and gas extraction led to an increase in aggregate US employment of 725,000 and a 0.5 percent decrease in the unemployment rate during the Great Recession.

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Air Quality and Error Quantity: Impacts of Ambient Air Quality on Worker Productivity and Decision-Making

James Archsmith
University of California Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Air quality improvements mandated under the Clean Air Act Amendments have resulted in measurable productivity gains for US workers. The mechanisms driving improvements in productivity, however, are poorly understood. Using an expansive panel dataset of worker decisions that can be objectively assessed ex post, I identify the causal impact of air quality on the accuracy of worker decisions. In contrast to previous research, I observe the same individual performing the same difficult task in numerous locations and across time allowing me to disentangle the effects of multiple, correlated pollutants. I find exposure to elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) above 1 ppm, far below the EPA standard for acute exposure, leads to an additional 3.1 incorrect decisions per 100 choices or a 0.14 standard deviation reduction in the likelihood of making a correct decision. Extrapolating to a population of similar workers, exposure to ambient CO levels above 1 ppm could lead to productivity losses in the United States in between $920 million and $5.2 billion per year. Other local criteria pollutants generally have no measurable effect. These results emphasize the impacts even low levels of ambient pollution may have on worker cognition and present an additional area for consideration when designing air quality standards.

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Organizational Responses to Public and Private Politics: An Analysis of Climate Change Activists and U.S. Oil and Gas Firms

Shon Hiatt, Jake Grandy & Brandon Lee
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We explore how activists' public and private politics elicit different organizational responses. Using data on U.S. petroleum companies from 1982 to 2010, we investigate how climate change activists serving as witnesses at congressional hearings and engaging in firm protests influenced firms' internal and external responses. We find that public politics induced internally focused practice adoption, whereas private politics induced externally focused framing activities. We also find that private and public politics had an interaction effect: as firms faced more private political pressure, they were less likely to respond to public political pressures; similarly, as firms faced greater public political pressure, they were less likely to respond to private political pressures. The results suggest that activists can have a significant impact on firm behavior depending on the mix of private and public political tactics they engage in. We discuss the implications of our study for social movement research, organization theory, and nonmarket strategy.

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As the Wind Blows: The Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution on Mortality

Michael Anderson
NBER Working Paper, September 2015

Abstract:
There is strong evidence that short-run fluctuations in air pollution negatively impact infant health and contemporaneous adult health, but there is less evidence on the causal link between long-term exposure to air pollution and increased adult mortality. This project estimates the impact of long-term exposure to air pollution on mortality by leveraging quasi-random variation in pollution levels generated by wind patterns near major highways. We combine geocoded data on the residence of every decedent in Los Angeles over three years, high-frequency wind data, and Census Short Form data. Using these data, we estimate the effect of downwind exposure to highway-generated pollutants on the age-specific mortality rate by using bearing to the nearest major highway as an instrument for pollution exposure. We find that doubling the percentage of time spent downwind of a highway increases mortality among individuals 75 and older by 3.6 to 6.8 percent. These estimates are robust and economically significant.

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Do energy prices influence investment in energy efficiency? Evidence from energy star appliances

Grant Jacobsen
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, November 2015, Pages 94-106

Abstract:
I examine whether electricity prices influence the likelihood that consumers purchase high efficiency appliances by using state-year panel data on electricity prices and the proportion of sales of new appliances that involve high efficiency "Energy Star" models. I find no evidence that electricity prices affect the propensity for consumers to choose high efficiency appliances. Point estimates are extremely small and precisely estimated. The findings suggest that price-based energy policies may be limited in the extent to which they increase investment in residential energy efficiency, which has been considered one of the lowest cost opportunities for reducing carbon emissions.

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Impacts of Being Downwind of a Coal-Fired Power Plant on Infant Health at Birth: Evidence from the Precedent-Setting Portland Rule

Muzhe Yang & Shin-Yi Chou
NBER Working Paper, November 2015

Abstract:
We conduct the first study on the impacts of prenatal exposure to a uniquely identified large polluter, a coal-fired power plant located near the border of two states, on the birth outcomes of the downwind state. For mothers who live as far as 20 to 40 miles away but downwind of the power plant, being exposed to power plant emissions, in particular sulfur dioxide, during the first month of pregnancy could increase the likelihood of having full-term babies but with low birth weight, an indicator of slow fetal growth, by as much as 42 percent. This adverse impact could be driven by reactive sulfur species-induced intrauterine oxidative stress, arising from maternal exposure to emissions of sulfur dioxide, whose travelling from the emission source to the downwind region has been confirmed in the Portland Rule. In light of EPA's continual efforts in regulating power plant emissions, our study is aimed at broadening the scope of cross-border pollution analysis by taking into account adverse infant heath impacts from upwind polluters, which can burden the downwind states disproportionately.

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Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA

Joan Casey et al.
Epidemiology, forthcoming

Background: Unconventional natural gas development has expanded rapidly. In Pennsylvania, the number of producing wells increased from 0 in 2005 to 3,689 in 2013. Few publications have focused on unconventional natural gas development and birth outcomes.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study using electronic health record data on 9,384 mothers linked to 10,946 neonates in the Geisinger Health System from January 2009 to January 2013. We estimated cumulative exposure to unconventional natural gas development activity with an inverse-distance squared model that incorporated distance to the mother's home; dates and durations of well pad development, drilling, and hydraulic fracturing; and production volume during the pregnancy. We used multilevel linear and logistic regression models to examine associations between activity index quartile and term birth weight, preterm birth, low 5-minute Apgar score and small size for gestational age birth, while controlling for potential confounding variables.

Results: In adjusted models, there was an association between unconventional natural gas development activity and preterm birth that increased across quartiles, with a fourth quartile odds ratio of 1.4 (95% confidence interval = 1.0, 1.9). There were no associations of activity with Apgar score, small for gestational age birth, or term birth weight (after adjustment for year). In a posthoc analysis, there was an association with physician-recorded high-risk pregnancy identified from the problem list (fourth vs. first quartile, 1.3 [95% confidence interval = 1.1, 1.7]).

Conclusion: Prenatal residential exposure to unconventional natural gas development activity was associated with two pregnancy outcomes, adding to evidence that unconventional natural gas development may impact health.

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Does Water Quality Improve When a Safe Drinking Water Act Violation Is Issued? A Study of the Effectiveness of the SDWA in California

Katherine Grooms
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
The Safe Drinking Water Act addresses harmful contaminants in drinking water by providing states the authority to monitor public water systems, notify the public of exceedances above allowable levels, and cite persistent violators. Violating water systems are subject to intense regulatory and public scrutiny. The response of contaminant levels to violation status has not been explored empirically. This paper addresses this relationship through an event study using data on arsenic and nitrate levels in California. I find that violation status has a significant positive effect on nitrate levels post-violation, but no effect on arsenic levels. I also examine the effect of the 2006 arsenic Maximum Contaminant Level revision, finding a discontinuity in contaminant levels at revision. These results suggest that while public disclosure may deter systems from violating, once they go into violation the Public Notification Rule is not effective at encouraging a return to compliance.

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Reproductive outcome and survival of common bottlenose dolphins sampled in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Suzanne Lane et al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 November 2015

Abstract:
Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabit bays, sounds and estuaries across the Gulf of Mexico. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, studies were initiated to assess potential effects on these ecologically important apex predators. A previous study reported disease conditions, including lung disease and impaired stress response, for 32 dolphins that were temporarily captured and given health assessments in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA. Ten of the sampled dolphins were determined to be pregnant, with expected due dates the following spring or summer. Here, we report findings after 47 months of follow-up monitoring of those sampled dolphins. Only 20% (95% CI: 2.50-55.6%) of the pregnant dolphins produced viable calves, as compared with a previously reported pregnancy success rate of 83% in a reference population. Fifty-seven per cent of pregnant females that did not successfully produce a calf had been previously diagnosed with moderate-severe lung disease. In addition, the estimated annual survival rate of the sampled cohort was low (86.8%, 95% CI: 80.0-92.7%) as compared with survival rates of 95.1% and 96.2% from two other previously studied bottlenose dolphin populations. Our findings confirm low reproductive success and high mortality in dolphins from a heavily oiled estuary when compared with other populations. Follow-up studies are needed to better understand the potential recovery of dolphins in Barataria Bay and, by extension, other Gulf coastal regions impacted by the spill.

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Who benefits from environmental policy? An environmental justice analysis of air quality change in Britain, 2001-2011

Gordon Mitchell, Paul Norman & Karen Mullin
Environmental Research Letters, October 2015

Abstract:
Air quality in Great Britain has improved in recent years, but not enough to prevent the European Commission (EC) taking legal action for non-compliance with limit values. Air quality is a national public health concern, with disease burden associated with current air quality estimated at 29 000 premature deaths per year due to fine particulates, with a further burden due to NO2. National small-area analyses showed that in 2001 poor air quality was much more prevalent in socio-economically deprived areas. We extend this social distribution of air quality analysis to consider how the distribution changed over the following decade (2001-2011), a period when significant efforts to meet EC air quality directive limits have been made, and air quality has improved. We find air quality improvement is greatest in the least deprived areas, whilst the most deprived areas bear a disproportionate and rising share of declining air quality including non-compliance with air quality standards. We discuss the implications for health inequalities, progress towards environmental justice, and compatibility of social justice and environmental sustainability objectives.

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Pollution and Mortality in the 19th Century

Walker Hanlon
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Mortality was extremely high in the industrial cities of the 19th century, but little is known about the role played by pollution in generating this pattern, due largely to a lack of direct pollution measures. I overcome this problem by combining data on the local composition of industries in Britain with information on the intensity with which industries used polluting inputs. Using this new measure, I show that pollution had a strong impact on mortality as far back as the 1850s. Industrial pollution explains 30-40% of the relationship between mortality and population density in 1851-60, and nearly 60% of this relationship in 1900. Growing industrial coal use from 1851-1900 reduced life expectancy by at least 0.57 years. A back-of-the envelope estimate suggests that the value of this loss of life, expressed as a one-time cost, was equal to at least 0.33-1.00 of annual GDP in 1900. Overall, these results show that industrial pollution was a major cause of mortality in the 19th century, particularly in urban areas, and that industrial growth during this period came at a substantial cost to health.

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The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale

Jos Lelieveld et al.
Nature, 17 September 2015, Pages 367-371

Abstract:
Assessment of the global burden of disease is based on epidemiological cohort studies that connect premature mortality to a wide range of causes, including the long-term health impacts of ozone and fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5). It has proved difficult to quantify premature mortality related to air pollution, notably in regions where air quality is not monitored, and also because the toxicity of particles from various sources may vary. Here we use a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. In accord with the global burden of disease for 2010, we calculate that outdoor air pollution, mostly by PM2.5, leads to 3.3 (95 per cent confidence interval 1.61-4.81) million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. We primarily assume that all particles are equally toxic, but also include a sensitivity study that accounts for differential toxicity. We find that emissions from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature mortality globally, being even more dominant if carbonaceous particles are assumed to be most toxic. Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity. Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.

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Chinese Yellow Dust and Korean Infant Health

Deokrye Baek, Duha Altindag & Naci Mocan
NBER Working Paper, October 2015

Abstract:
Naturally-occurring yellow sand outbreaks, which are produced by winds flowing to Korea from China and Mongolia, create air pollution. Although there is seasonal pattern of this phenomenon, there exists substantial variation in its timing, strength and location from year to year. Thus, exposure to the intensity of air pollution exhibits significant randomness and unpredictability. To warn residents about air pollution in general, and about these dust storms in particular, Korean authorities issue different types of public alerts. Using birth certificate data on more than 1.5 million babies born between 2003 and 2011, we investigate the impact of air pollution, and the avoidance behavior triggered by pollution alerts on various birth outcomes. We find that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy has a significant negative impact on birth weight, the gestation weeks of the baby, and the propensity of the baby being low weight. Public alerts about air quality during pregnancy have a separate positive effect on fetal health. We show that Korean women do not time their pregnancy according to expected yellow dust exposure, and that educated women's pregnancy timing is not different from those who are less-educated. The results provide evidence for the effectiveness of pollution alert systems in promoting public health. They also underline the importance of taking into account individuals' avoidance behavior when estimating the impact of air quality on birth outcomes. Specifically, we show that the estimated impact of air pollution on infant health is reduced by half when the preventive effect of public health warnings is not accounted for.


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