Standards and the regulation of environmental risk
We study regulatory design for a pollution-generating firm who is better informed than the regulator regarding pollution mitigation possibilities, and who chooses an unobservable action when employing a particular mitigation plan. We distinguish among performance, process, and design standards, and study the relative merit of each type of regulatory instrument. Relative to previous work on standards design, we emphasize technology and process verification. An optimal performance standard is relatively strict when regulator and firm preferences are congruent, but the regulator may prefer no performance standard at all if verification costs are sufficiently high. A process standard unambiguously increases expected surplus (relative to no regulation) in some environments, and otherwise improves welfare only when it is unlikely to generate a “bad” technology choice by the firm. A design standard can improve welfare if the regulator is sufficiently well informed about the technological possibilities for pollution control, but only when the firm’s private benefits from technology choice are sufficiently small.
KeywordsStandards Environmental regulation Asymmetric information
JEL ClassificationsD62 Q53 L51
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