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The International Yearbook of Environmental and Resource Economics 2005/2006

A Survey of Current Issues

Edited by Henk Folmer and Tom Tietenberg

The Yearbook provides a comprehensive overview of cutting-edge issues in environmental and resource economics.
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Chapter 3: Environmental equity and the siting of hazardous waste facilities in OECD countries: evidence and policies

James T. Hamilton


1 James T. Hamilton INTRODUCTION Measuring environmental equity entails as many challenges as defining it. Economics increasingly is being used to explain and evaluate the distribution of environmental quality across socioeconomic groups (see Pearce, 2002). This chapter looks at a particular type of environmental hazard, the siting of hazardous waste facilities, from the perspective of environmental equity. Conclusions about the distribution of risks from hazardous waste facilities depend in part on how these hazards are defined. Studies of facility siting, operation, and cleanup indicate that the greatest hazards appear to be distributed in some countries as if the environment were a normal good. Risks are greater for those with lower incomes. During the 1980s and early 1990s, many of the policies dealing with hazardous waste focused on how to site new facilities and how to clean up older plants. The explicit incorporation of environmental equity concerns came in later policies. This means that while efforts to focus attention on the distribution of risks by income class have recently succeeded in generating new policies in some countries, it is too early to determine the actual efficacy of these policies. This chapter explores the environmental equity debate through the prism of hazardous waste facility siting. Section 1 reviews the nature of the data available, the methodologies of analysis used, and the comparability of studies within and across OECD countries. Section 2 reviews and discusses the studies of hazardous waste facilities and focuses in particular on the distribution of...

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