Government Facilities more likely than Private Businesses to Violate Environmental Laws…and less likely to be Punished

Friday, October 16, 2015
(photo: Charlie Riedel, AP)

Researchers have found that publicly-owned power plants, hospitals and water utilities pollute more than similar private-sector entities and get away with it.


David Konisky of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and Manny Teodoro, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University, looked at the records of more than 3,000 power plants, 1,000 hospitals and 4,200 water utilities, according to Government Executive.


Their findings, reported in the American Journal of Political Science, included:


--Public power plants and hospitals were on average 9% more likely not to comply with the Clean Air Act and 20% more likely to have committed high-priority violations.


--Public water utilities had on average 14% more Safe Drinking Water Act violations and were 29% more likely to commit monitoring violations.


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


Konisky and Teodoro offered an explanation, writing that government entities have “higher costs of complying with regulations because they often must go through political processes to raise the money needed to improve their facilities. And they may face pushback from customers or taxpayers who object to higher rates and have the political power to block them.


“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.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Agencies Flout Environmental Rules More than Private Firms (by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive)

Governments More Likely to Break Environmental Law than Private Firms (by Michael Patrick Leahy, Breitbart)

When Governments Regulate Governments (by David M. Konisky and Manuel P. Teodoro, American Journal of Political Science) (abstract)

Oops…EPA Causes 3 Million-Gallon Wastewater Release into River (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


Leave a comment