Printer Friendly

Dimensions of Hazardous Waste Politics and Policy.

Dimensions of Hazardous Waste Politics and Policy

Dimensions is the proceedings of a recent symposium on public decision-making concerning hazardous waste. The major focus of Dimensions is the politics of hazardous waste. Dimensions includes thirteen papers, categorized into four parts according to the level of government decision making involved: (1) local, (2) state and regional, (3) national and intergovernmental, and (4) comparative national/international. Ten of the thirteen papers deal with toxic wastes in a variety of geographical settings within the U.S., that is, Florida, Massachusetts, New England, Ohio, and the Southeast. Two papers look at the problem of toxic waste in terms of the relations between nations: one in Western Europe among the nations of the EEC and the other in North America between the U.S. and Mexico.

Dimensions provides useful information to the insurance/risk management practitioner in a number of areas:

1) a bibliography of the literature,

2) a summary of the current toxic waste liability climate,

3) application of quantitative models to decision-making regarding hazardous waste management, and

4) a series of case studies showing the evolution of regulation in the area of hazardous waste.

Each of the thirteen papers includes a bibliography. Lester and Davis introduce the proceedings with a survey paper; its bibliography is particularly helpful. Overall, there are more than twenty-five pages of bibliographic entries.

The reader trying to conceptualize the problems of hazardous waste in terms of insurance/risk management concepts such as frequency and severity will experience some frustration. Significant uncertainty is associated with hazardous waste:

1) The number and composition of hazardous waste sites is not known with great certainty. EPA figures on Superfund sites have increased significantly over time.

2) The composition of these hazardous waste sites is not well known.

3) The data on hazardous waste and health is very incomplete.

4) The hazardous waste problem is a political problem and its solution requires behavioral changes at many levels of society in America and internationally.

5) Technologies for dealing with hazardous waste have not been thoroughly tested.

"In short, the effective implementation of hazardous waste regulation, presents a number of highly intractable problems." (Dimensions, pp 18-19) From the point of view of insurance/risk management practitioners, it would be preferable to learn solutions instead of problems; however, the critical nature of toxic waste problems will not permit that luxury at the present time.

The models in Dimensions deal, for the most part, with a level of uncertainty that is beyond stochastic uncertainty. That is, frequently it is impossible to assin frequencies or severities to the occurrences of toxic waste spills, Dimensions does provide a snap-shot view of the attempt by government at all levels to come to grips with the problems of hazardous waste.

While Dimensions is of general interest to anyone trying to understand the issues surrounding hazardous waste, several of the papers should be of particular interest to students of insurance/risk management. The paper by Grunbaum examines the federal courts' interpretation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response and the Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (Superfund Act). It also cites a survey of liability based on the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and discusses the major pieces of antipollution legislation. The major focus of the Grunbaum paper is strict liability and joint and several liability as regards Superfund. Grunbaum provides numerous citations to case law, administrative proceedings, and the academic literature.

Two papers in Dimensions illustrate the applications of quantitative models to problems involving hazardous waste. Rowland, Lee, and Goetze give a thumbnail sketch of the mathematical theory of catastrophe and discuss implications for analyzing changes in hazardous waste policy. Zimmerman discusses the kinds of uncertainties faced by policy makers using the terminology of statistical decision theory.

Virtually all of the thirteen papers provide insight into the evolution of hazardous waste legislation. Two papers deserve special emphasis: the overview/introductory paper of Lester and Davis and the review of judicial interpretations of the Superfund Act by Grunbaum.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Risk and Insurance Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Roach, Bill
Publication:Journal of Risk and Insurance
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Previous Article:Checks and Balances in Social Security: Symposium in honor of Robert J. Myers.
Next Article:Directors and Officers Liability Insurance 1987.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters