CPR Briefing Paper: Chesapeake Bay States Need to Strengthen Penalty Policies to Make Sure there is No Profit in Pollution

by Robert Glicksman | April 19, 2013

Industries that discharge water pollution are required to abide by clean water laws and regulations that limit how much they can pollute the nation's rivers, lakes, streams, and other bodies of water. If they exceed their limits or fail to implement appropriate methods for controlling their pollution, they violate the law. Such violations should trigger appropriate sanctions to deter all regulated entities from committing future violations.

Unfortunately, polluters may weigh decisions about whether and how much to pollute from a dollars-and-cents perspective only, comparing the costs of compliance with the penalties to which they may be subject for exceeding applicable discharge limits. Such a comparison can make decisions about how much to pollute turn on a comparison of the bottom line on the corporate balance sheet with and without a violation, without any apparent recognition of the impact that pollution may have on the health of others or the social responsibility to abide by legal mandates.

That's precisely why strict regulation of polluting industries is necessary. More specifically, it's why there should be no question that the cost of violating the law will exceed the avoided costs of compliance that result from a decision not to abide by applicable discharge limits. The penalties for violating environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act should provide ample economic disincentive to violate the law —the penalties must be high enough that regulated businesses that make decision about whether to pollute based purely on the bottom line ...

One More Point on the N.Y. Times Water Article -- the Problem of Nonpoint Source Pollution

by William Andreen | September 16, 2009
Sunday’s New York Times article about the neglect of our clean water laws included a shocking example of how a regulatory gap in the Clean Water Act can harm public health. For example, the article referred to water supplies in parts of the Farm Belt that are contaminated by dangerous levels of pesticides, which originate with agricultural runoff and cannot be corrected by enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Although the Act provides a comprehensive regulatory program for point source ...

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