Event Date and Time

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This workshop brought together a select group of environmental regulators from federal and state agencies and academic scholars from a variety of disciplines for a constructive dialogue about how research can inform the pursuit of Innovative Approaches to foster Environmental Compliance. The topics discussed also are important to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “Next Generation Environmental Compliance” (Next Gen) initiative.


This free invitation-only workshop was organized and hosted by Professor Katharine Abraham (University of Maryland, Department of Economics), Professor Jay Shimshack (University of Virginia, Batten School of Public Policy), and Professor Michael Toffel (Harvard Business School), with input from the US EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) and other EPA offices. The conference was funded by the University of Maryland, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, and Harvard University.


Most of the workshop consisted of discussions about how research can inform several key questions that US EPA and other regulatory agencies are facing, listed below, on four topics: rule and permit design, monitoring, reporting and transparency, and innovative enforcement. Each of these discussions waw co-led by a researcher and regulator, who briefly set the stage and will serve as the initial point of contact for follow-up conversations after the workshop. The workshop also featured discussions about opportunities and challenges related to data, randomized control trials, and working relationships between researchers and agencies.


Background reading suggestions are provided below the agenda.

Click here for logistical information.

Click here for a PDF of the workshop agenda.

Click here for a list of workshop participants.

Workshop Agenda

8:30- 9:00 Registration

9:00- 9:30

Welcome remarks

9:30- 11:30

Research Discussion 1A: Monitoring

  • When does the use of advanced monitoring technology (e.g., stack, fenceline, or ambient) to measure emissions and/or to publicize the monitoring data spur facilities to improve compliance?
    • Does it matter if the entity doing the measuring and reporting is the regulated entity, the regulator, or a third party such as a researcher, trade association, insurer or citizen group?
    • When it’s the regulated entity that is doing the monitoring, does it matter whether they are required to report in real time or maintain records onsite and make them available during regulatory inspections?
  • If parties not associated with the government, such as researchers, trade associations, insurers or citizen groups, collect and publicize real time pollution data (e.g., fence line or ambient air or water monitoring) would facilities reduce their emissions or discharges, or respond in other ways?

Moderator:  Jodi L. Short, UC Hastings College of the Law  presentation slides

Research Discussion 1B: Rule and Permit Design

  • When does reducing regulatory complexity improve compliance (e.g., via simpler language in regulations and permits)?
  • How can we make self-reporting and self-certification more accurate, for both quantitative metrics (e.g., permit limits) and non-quantitative requirements (e.g., required equipment or effort)?  For example, would requiring regulated sources to use modern photographic, video, or web app methods to document or certify behavior or compliance improve their performance relative to facilities using traditional paper documentation?

Moderator:  Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania  presentation slides

11:30- 12:45


12:45- 2:45

Research Discussion 2A: Reporting and Transparency

  • Would requiring regulated sources to publicly post information on their compliance or performance affect their performance, e.g., by web posting, posting signs, or otherwise providing real-time notice?
  • Do regulated entities who are required to submit proof of compliance to the government comply better than facilities who are required only to keep the compliance documentation on-site for review by inspectors?

Moderator:  Jay Shimshack, University of Virginia  presentation slides

Research Discussion 2B: Innovative Enforcement

  • Under what circumstances are independent third-party verification programs effective to assure and drive compliance?
  • How do facilities respond to alternative forms of agencies’ automated  violation notifications? For example, do facilities respond differently depending on the communication medium (emails, texts, letters) and content (e.g., violation notice vs. also offering compliance assistance)?

Moderator:  Sally S. Simpson, University of Maryland  presentation slides

2:45- 3:00

Coffee Break

3:00- 4:30

Researchers and Agencies

  • What do researchers want most from regulators, and what have been the biggest barriers to getting this?
  • What do regulators want most from researchers, and what have been the biggest barriers to getting this?

4:30- 5:00

Next steps and closing remarks

Workshop concludes



Background Reading Suggestions

Coglianese, Cary and Jennifer Nash. Forthcoming. “The Law of the Test:  Performance-Based Regulation and Diesel Emissions Control,” Yale Journal on Regulation.

Giles, C. 2013. “Next generation compliance,” The Environmental Forum, September, 22-26.

Hindin, D. A., and Silberman, J. D.  2016. “Designing More Effective Rules and Permits,” George Washington Journal of Energy and Environmental Law7, 103-123.

Loewenstein, George, Cass R. Sunstein, and Russell Golman. 2014. "Disclosure: Psychology Changes Everything," Annual Review of Economics 6(1), 391-419.

Shimshack J.P. 2013. “Information Programs,” Encyclopedia of Energy, Natural Resource, and Environmental Economics, Vol. 3, J.F. Shogren, ed., Amsterdam: Elsevier, 169-173.

Short, Jodi L. and Michael W. Toffel. 2016. “The Integrity of Private Third-party Compliance Monitoring,” Administrative and Regulatory Law News 42(1), 22–25.


Venn diagram showing 5 areas converging