Environmental regulatory enforcement: Are public and private facilities treated differently?
Does regulatory enforcement or wastewater facilities differ depending on whether the facility is publicly-owned or privately-owned?; Economics-based models, such as those of Langbein and Kerwin (1985) and Tsebelis (1991) conclude that regulation is an interactive process recognizing partial compliance and tailored enforcement. Case studies conducted by Bardach and Kagan (1981), Hawkins (1984) and Durant (1985) demonstrated the influence of political and socio-economic factors on regulator behavior. Political scientists such as Wenner (1972) have considered regulation as an institutional political issue; a hypothetical article by Wilson and Rachal (1977) added the question of Federal facility compliance. Quantitative research confirming the earlier theoretical work has been led by Scholz et al (1983 et seq) and Hedge et al (1988 et seq). Similar results using more detailed data available through the EPA were produced by Magat and Viscusi (1990) and Hunter and Waterman (1992). This research investigated the influence of facility ownership on the incidence of any enforcement action, the number of such enforcement actions, and the most stringent action recorded against each facility recorded as having been in violation during 1990 (90 day lag). Numerous task factors were included as control variables. Public ownership was weakly associated with reduced levels of enforcement activity; the association was much stronger for Federal ownership. It can be concluded that enforcement against Federal facilities is statistically less frequent and less stringent than it is against private facilities in general. However, some industries received more stringent enforcement than Federal facilities. In addition, States were less active enforcers than the Federal EPA offices. These findings suggest that the enforcement process, while apparently favoring Federal facilities, may be targeted towards industries that in the regulatory agency's view pose high environmental risks.