The Dollar Costs of Pollution


Specifically the costs of water pollution. JD at Techfun has an interesting article discussing how putting a dollar cost on water pollution might prompt citizens and policy makers to take notice.  Take a read of it and then let me know what you think about the following.

It seems these days that researchers, politicians, or advocates for a cause are increasingly putting a dollar amount on the consequences of not taking whatever course of action they support.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing and can certainly open eyes to financial advantages of reducing water pollution for example, I wonder if it really has the desired effect.  Are we becoming immune to the dollars and cents arguments because we see them applied to almost every currently eventful issue?  And should we be even using the money angle to get people to support issues that they really should support for health or humanitarian reasons?

On the other hand, if putting a $ figure on the costs of something as transparently harmful as pollution creates more advocates for the reduction of said pollution, what is the harm in that?  But does it really work?

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Will Sig
1 JD Thomas

I’m a fan of – when all else fails – appealing to people’s enlightened self interest.

I grew up on Lake Okeechobee in South Florida in a small redneck town where the idea of sorting the recyclables out of your trash would have been laughed out of a city council meeting as a radical environmentalist plot. However, the lake and its approaches from town were kept clean and unpolluted.

This was not a result of regulation as much as it was self interest by the citizenry. Much of the towns income came from tourism – bass fisherman in particular – and pollution was bad for business.

Techfuns last blog post..Computer Room Critters


2 Swubird


As far as command and control regulations to control pollution go, the greenback as always been the weapon of choice. For instance, a failure of a regulated entity to not adequately control storm water runoff can result in a $25,000 per day fine – for each infraction of the regulations. Such a huge amount would seem adequate to compensate for the damage polluted runoff can cause. But that’s not the case. The consequences of ignored pollution for any source to air, water or ground can result in millions of dollars in costs to human health and welfare. In light of this fact, I think it’s appropriate to compare such costs in terms of failed compliance. That being said, however, I believe the problem is not entirely the fault of the regulated entity, but instead, it’s also the fault of the very environmental regulatory agencies who enacted the rules in the first place. They simply do not do an adequate job of enforcement. They need more money, and they only way they can effectively frame that argument is to speak in terms of the cost of non compliance.

Happy trails.

Swubirds last blog post..THE PROGERIA SISTERS


3 Will

Both great comments and I think supporting the idea that simply highlighting the dollar costs of pollution is only a small part of what will help. Appealing directly to lawmakers with the dollar argument is probably the best approach. Since, in many cases, they have a limited amount of money to work with, success may come in showing that avoiding the pollution in the first place results in less money spent. It has to be a pretty current result, though. Policy makers have proven time and time again that they will choose not to spend five hundred thousand dollars now to save 5 million 5 years from now. For some reason they have a history of being shortsighted when deciding where to spend money.


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