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Can sulfur dioxide trading affect poor communities?

November 30, 2010

Writing in an upcoming issue of Social Science Quarterly, Professor Evan Ringquist completed a comprehensive assessment of whether trading sulfur dioxide allowances under the Clean Air Act has concentrated this pollutant in poor and/or minority communities.  His conclusion:  It has not.

"This is by far the most comprehensive evaluation of the question," Ringquist notes. "This issue is particularly relevant because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently trying to revise its pollution trading programs after they were invalidated by two Washington DC Circuit Court decisions in 2007 and 2008."

While Ringquist found that the sulfur dioxide trading program did not concentrate sulfur dioxide emission in black or Hispanic communities, his findings did indicate higher emissions in poorly educated communities.  Further, he concludes, policy makers, however, might make an effort to design and implement future emissions trading programs in a manner that reduces the monitoring costs of tracking emissions trading.

By reducing monitoring costs, policy makers may prevent the concentration of emissions in poorly educated communities while preserving the efficiency benefits of these instruments.


A copy of Ringquist's article can be found here.