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Environmental Economics Seminar: Environmental Justice: Evidence from Superfund Cleanup Durations

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Date(s): May 14, 2013, 10:30 AM - 12

Location: Room 4128, EPA West Building, 1301 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC

Contact: Carl Pasurka, 202-566-2275

Presenter: Martin Burda and Matthew Harding

Description: This paper investigates the extent to which Superfund cleanup durations may reflect biases inconsistent with the principles of Environmental Justice. We introduce a novel identification strategy which models the duration between different milestones in the cleanup process using a semiparametric Bayesian proportional hazard model that accounts for a large number of predetermined site characteristics, a flexible baseline hazard and a nonparametric estimate of the distribution of unobserved site heterogeneity. We find that sites located in black, urban and lower educated neighborhoods were discriminated against at the beginning of the program but that the degree of bias diminished over time. Executive Order 12898 of 1994 appears to have re-prioritized resources for the faster cleanup of sites located in less wealthy neighborhoods. We do not find that the legal process is an impediment in the cleanup process and support the notion that community involvement is an important part of the cleanup.

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