In 1991, as an attempt to reduce pollution, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began collecting data in relation to pollution prevention (P2) attempts by different facilities (p. 255). By taking this initiative, the EPA started to combine that data with the Toxic Releases Inventory (TRI), which was implemented under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), and made it publicly available. Observation of this data show that state legislation has a certain level of influence on facilities’ environmental performance. In the article of Effectiveness of State Pollution Prevention Programs and Policies by Donna Harrington, she attempts to analyze the impact of such legislation on toxic releases and facility environmental performance.
Harrington included five hypotheses for her study, which focuses on facilities’ P2 activities and pollution legislation. These hypotheses were developed based on the objectives of the study outlined by Harrington. First and foremost, the main objective of the study is to determine whether the adoption of P2 activities and reduction of toxic releases are influenced by state-level legislation mandating P2 initiatives.
Secondly, Harrington attempts to examine the achievements of P2 programs and how numerical goals, reporting requirements and mandatory P2 planning contributed to those achievements. Furthermore, the study attempts to evaluate the potency of policies by determining whether or not facility characteristics affect the implementation of the policies.
To complete the study and address the objectives outlined, Harrington developed several estimation strategies through historical P2 adoption data and facility characteristics that cannot be accounted for. Ultimately, three different panel data models were created for each objective (p. 261). The two main consistent variables used throughout the study included new P2 activities or practices adopted by facilities each year and measurements of toxic pollution levels reported by facilities (pp. 263-264).
Costs and Impact of TRI on P2
The Toxic Releases Inventory (TRI) are reported quantities of onsite toxic releases to air, water and land as well as offsite disposals, transfers and treatments on certain chemicals mandated by the EPA (p. 264). The study showed that states with P2 legislation focused on toxic waste reduction had a significantly lower amount of TR levels than states who had P2 legislation without an emphasis on toxic waste reduction (p. 269). Although levels showed to be lower in states with toxic waste reduction policies, TRI does little to influence P2 activities directly. It appears that mandatory reporting requirements and planning impact P2 activities more. Notably, the same mandatory reporting requirements or planning have little impact on toxic releases.
In addition to the impact of TRI on P2, Harrington attempted to determine whether other facility characteristics influenced P2 activity, including costs. During Harrington’s study, she made apparent that facility characteristics were based on estimation due to the inability to observe those characteristics independently for each reporting facility. However, she did find that implementing P2 activities were rather costly for facilities, therefore this may play a major role on the types of P2 activities are adopted and the performance of these activities (p. 261).
Harrington found that state-level P2 legislation does in fact increase facilities adopting P2 activities. However, a key factor in this study highlighted that factors such as numerical goals, reporting requirements and mandatory planning did little to reduce toxic release levels. From the observation of her study, it appears that there was no direct correlation between policy and toxic release levels. On the other hand, the study did reveal that states with P2 policies that specifically focused on waste reduction saw a significantly lower toxic release levels. Furthermore, it shows that variables relating to facility characteristics also played a role in the reduction of toxic levels along with the extent in which the facility has adopted certain P2 activities. Personally, the results of the study left an impression that without explicit direction from governmental agencies, facilities would continue to operate with little regard to the environment. Furthermore, it shows that P2 legislation would only be effective in the reduction of toxic levels if legislation focused on waste management. This in itself suggests that community focus should be on waste reduction rather than pollution prevention.
- Harrington, D.R. (2012). Effectiveness of State Pollution Prevention Programs and Policies. Contemporary Economic Policy, 31(2), 255-278. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-7287.2011.00312.x