Evaluating The Impact of Public Disclosure on Polluter Behavior: Evidence from the TRI

EPA Grant Number: R832850
Title: Evaluating The Impact of Public Disclosure on Polluter Behavior: Evidence from the TRI
Investigators: Bui, Linda T.M.
Institution: Brandeis University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: April 1, 2006 through March 31, 2008
Project Amount: $235,040
RFA: Environmental Behavior and Decisionmaking: Determining the Effectiveness of Environmental Information Disclosure and Provision (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Economics and Decision Sciences


This project proposes two micro-level studies of firm response to the public disclosure of private information, as required by the US Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).


The effectiveness of the TRI will be examined for controlling toxic releases.  In particular, the following will be investigated:  (1) How have reported declines in TRI-listed releases come about?  (2) Have supplemental state-level environmental policies contributed to the reductions in toxic releases?  (3) Have PACE expenditures for non-toxic emissions affected the level of toxic releases?  (4) Is the observed effectiveness of the TRI sensitive to the use of toxicity indices?  The proposed studies will use plant-level data for the printed circuit board (“PCB”) industry, petroleum refiners, chemical manufacturers, pulp and paper mills, and pharmaceuticals.


(Part I) For the PCB industry economic and environmental data will be linked from the Census Bureau and EPA.  Using data on plant-level inputs and outputs (available in Census years from the material and products files), the effectiveness of TRI reporting as a regulatory mechanism to reduce toxic releases will be evaluated by estimating to what extent reported TRI releases changed due to:  (1) substitution away from TRI-listed to unlisted substances; (2) changes in the level or composition of output; (3) changes in efficiency in the use of toxic inputs; (4) changes in production process; and (5) changes to market structure and conditions.

(Part II) Information will be collected on state-level environmental regulation of both toxic and non-toxic pollutants.  For four industries (petroleum, chemical, pulp and paper mills, and pharmaceuticals) variation in state regulatory stringency will be used to measure the effect of TRI “add-on” state regulation.

Expected Results:

The proposed research will (1) provide evidence on the contributions by TRI disclosures and other variables to the reported reductions in TRI-listed substances, and (2) shed light on whether, and to what extent, local and state environmental regulation contributes to the effectiveness of the TRI.  The models developed here will assist in determining how information regulation, as currently used with respect to toxic releases, might be refined and made more effective.  The research also should provide insight into what types of supplemental policies (at the state or local level) have helped in reducing toxic releases.  The data sets developed for this proposal may be of use to future researchers interested in environmental issues, and more generally in developing methods of linking environmental variables with detailed, plant-level economic data.

Supplemental Keywords:

information regulation, PCB, paper, petroleum, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, toxics,, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Corporate Performance, Economics and Business, Social Science, impact of state policy instruments, impact of federal policy instruments, policy making, toxic release inventory, TRI, environmental compliance determinants, information dissemination, public reporting, right-to-know programs, environmental behavior

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • Final