NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Pace of Progress at Superfund Sites: Policy Goals and Interest Group Influence

Hilary Sigman

NBER Working Paper No. 7704
Issued in May 2000
NBER Program(s):   PE

Bureaucracies may set priorities for their workload according to social goals or the desires of concentrated private interests. This paper explores bureaucratic priorities empirically by studying Superfund, the federal program for cleaning up contaminated sites. It examines the amount of time that sites on Superfund's National Priorities List require to complete three states from listing to cleanup, using an econometric method for multiple sequential durations. The empirical results provide little evidence that the EPA prioritizes sites according to their harms. By contrast, concentrated private interests, such as liable parties and local communities, play an important role in the EPA's priorities. Delays caused by liable parties may reduce net benefits of cleanup by 8%. This result suggests a benefit from funding provision of environmental quality and other public goods through diffuse sources, such as broad-based taxes, to avoid the detrimental effects of such concentrated interests.

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Published: Sigman, Hilary. "The Pace Of Progress At Superfund Sites: Policy Goals And Interest Group Influence," Journal of Law and Economics, 2001, v44(1,Apr), 315-344.

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