Session Recap: Federalism and the Enforcement of Environmental and Safety Regulations
November 7, 2014 06:19 PM
By Kharaam Sharifpour, University of Southern California
In this Fall Research Conference session, three papers were presented regarding environmental and safety regulations.
Nicholas Hart, George Washington University, presented Overseeing the Enforcers: Bureaucratic Discretion in Federal Monitoring of State Hazardous Waste Enforcement Programs. This study found that increases in state inspection intensity makes the federal government significantly decrease their inspection rate. Hart tried to develop an enforcement typology which puts federal enforcement versus state enforcement, considering the disagreements between the two levels. The discussant, Douglas Noonan, Indiana University, found the descriptive analysis of this typology to be a useful framework for considering differential treatment-response between the federal and state levels.
The second paper, Natural Resources Security, Energy and Environmental Policy, was presented by David Konisky, Georgetown University. The main question here was what happens when governments regulate themselves. For this paper, public and private entities in compliance with the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act were analyzed. The result of the study indicated that because public entities are not profit-driven, they are not sensitive either to financial incentives or to financial sanctions. Thusly, the political power of these entities is what helps them to not be regulated by governmental regulators.
The third paper investigated the pipeline regulations enforcement in state and federal levels. In The Role of States in Overseeing Natural Gas Pipeline Performance and Safety, Sarah Stafford, College of William and Mary, studied how intrastate and interstate regulations of pipeline inspections make conflicts. In the primacy analysis, the factors like the economic dependence of the state on pipelines, dictate if the state adopts primacy or not. The session chair, Megan Mullen, Duke University, brought to attention the need to disentangle the political or economic problems on the way to compliance to environmental acts.
Overall implication of the discussions at this panel is that the violation of governmental entities in compliance to environmental acts is in need of more investigation of the special economic and political problems these entities face. In addition, policy instruments should be closely studied and carefully adopted for different levels of federal, state, local regulators, and also public, private, or third party entities, since these actors have various drivers behind what they do.