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[GreenYes] Re: Landiflll economics

Title: [GreenYes] Re: Landiflll economics

Hi Paul ~

Nobody said that it was without challenges and complexities to move ahead an internalize externalities -- just like nearly everything else. And I don't think that there is an assumption that the precise level of the Pigovian costs of particular impacts are known -- but reasonable estimates can be made and modified as better information is obtained. Right now, the result of much of what is do is to assume that there is no cost that needs to be paid. Thus, those of us who burn fossil fuel, for example, are charged no cost to discharge CO2 into the air from our cars, home, etc -- we are tacitly given the right to pollute and push these costs onto society  (which to me, sounds like a subsidy).

I know of many examples both in Europe and here in the US where Pigovian fees are already being imposed. In years past, I have posted information on several programs in Europe on GreenYes and links to the studies where the calculations were made of the estimated costs. And, in my own state of Wisconsin, the state imposes surcharges on landfills of just under $6 a ton, and in the air and water programs, dischargers of specific emissions are charged on a per unit basis for the discharge. So, we are already imposing Pigovian fees.

I go back to a statement that Robert Kennedy made many years ago -- "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?". Let's recognize the challenges and complexities and grayness and move ahead to solve these.

Best wishes,


> -----Original Message-----
> From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address]On
> Behalf Of paul.ledesma@no.address

> I'd like to make a couple of points re: Landfill Costs and  Economics...
> First, here in California, a significant portion of the costs related
> to Subtitle D compliance can be directly attributed to controlling
> leachate and landfill gas.  Both of these issues are the result of
> organic material being buried in landfill cells.  Generally speaking,
> those in the Zero Waste community (such as myself) advocate for
> diversion of organic matter from landfills to composting.  Diversion
> of organics from landfill would obviate the need for greater leachate
> and gas control.  The existence of leachate is in and of itself an
> externality.
> Second, a criticism of Pigovian tax policy centers around two
> assumptions that must not be treated lightly.  (1) It is assumed that
> the appropriate Pigou tax increment is knowable.  In my experience
> this is a fat assumption. Belief in a government agency's ability to
> select the perfect tax increment is as arrogant as a blind belief in
> the free market as the perfect arbitor.  (2) It is often assumed that
> the transaction costs for administering a Pigou tax is low (or near
> zero).  This is in many cases not true.  Administrative costs related
> to environmental taxes is often costly.
> There are other problems with Pigou taxes that could be discussed:
> -Inherent regressiveness of Pigou tax policy
> -Problem of surplus revenue
> -Diminishing tax revenue in the long-run
> In conclusion, I would urge caution to any government agency choosing
> to implement a Pigou tax.  Oversimplication of the effects of Pigovian
> tax policy can lead to significant errors in policy implementation. If
> you get it wrong, those that champion rolling-back environmental
> policies will attack our mistakes.  As a policy alternative, I would
> suggest government agencies more take direct action (i.e., bans,
> product steward ship, extended producer responsibility) whenever
> appropriate.
> Paul Ledesma
> Zero Waste Coordinator
> City Government
> City and County of San Francisco

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