Several economics faculty at Appalachian State University are engaged in research that contributes to addressing local and global challenges related to the environment.
The Department of Economics is, in fact, ranked among the leading U.S. economics departments for research productivity, with a particular strength in environmental and experimental economics. More. And research from Dr. Dennis Guignet, an assistant professor in the department, is helping to quantify the benefits of environmental protections.
Dr. Guignet is a participant in the Evaluation of Economic Benefits from Implementing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Program, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE)
Dr. Guignet has been featured in a recent ORISE news article, Economist shapes how we measure values for the environment.
Guignet always loved the environment. He knew that he was destined for a career that put his efforts towards the natural world, and that it was a topic he would be happy being dedicated to. However, during his first year as an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State University, he realized that more potential good could come from focusing on not just the environment, but how society interacts with the environment as a whole. Ultimately, it is policymakers, not just other academics, who can put healthy environmental practices into place.
“I wanted to know why we — humans and society — do the things we do,” he said. “It is only when we understand the ‘why’ that we can figure out ways to change our behavior and help reduce our impact on the environment.”
The EPA has generally not been able to fully quantify the benefits of preventing and cleaning up pollution under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), due to a lack of scientific evidence. Guignet is attempting to do just that through his projects. He highlighted two of his projects he feels have the biggest impact.
The first project is to find a cause-and-effect relationship between home values and the environment surrounding the homes. For example, if there was environmental pollution around a home, how much would that home sell for on the market compared to another home in a cleaner area?
Guignet focused on cleanup events at hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs) to gather the data. For homes where TSDF cleanups took place, he found that there is a 6-7% increase in home value.
“We estimate that the completion of cleanup yields an average lower bound, ex post benefit of $16,000 per household,” Guignet said in an abstract on the study.
His second project tries to quantify the benefits of a clean environment by looking at how mitigation of exposure to hazardous chemicals affects infant health. He and his collaborators collect data on locations where RCRA has required facilities to clean up hazardous chemicals and compare that to where pregnant mothers are living.
Though the study hasn’t released the results, it looked specifically at whether a lower birthweight and whether babies were born prematurely depended on proximity to these facilities and the timing of cleanup. The study also investigated how other social and demographic factors of the children near these polluted sites compared to children of a more general population.
“Before we can estimate a dollar value for improvements in infant health, we must establish if, and by how much, a policy will improve health,” Guignet explained of the study.
These kinds of studies, in which a team evaluates the benefits of a policy versus the potential cost, inform the benefit-cost analysis that is conducted when a regulation is proposed.
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education is a U.S. Department of Energy asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination.
Dr. Guignet is a past Dean's Club Research Prize recipient, recognized by the Walker College for his research on adverse effects of early childhood exposure to lead and resulting educational performance in 3rd through 8th grades.
About the Department of Economics at Appalachian State University
The Department of Economics in Appalachian State University's Walker College of Business is an intellectually vibrant place for students and faculty. As a research-intensive department committed to student learning, the department offers a wide range of courses that provide critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, complemented by student-faculty research collaboration. Our faculty members are engaged in research that contributes locally and globally in areas related to energy, environmental, development, trade, health, sports and tourism. The Department of Economics is ranked among the leading U.S. economics departments for research productivity, and is particularly strong in environmental and experimental economics. Learn more at economics.appstate.edu.
About Faculty Research in the Walker College of Business
The Walker College faculty produce and disseminate extensive research through both academic and professional communities. In the last five years, faculty have published 543 peer reviewed academic journal articles, 160 conference proceedings, and made 533 conference and professional presentations. In total, faculty have produced 1,175 intellectual contributions in the last five years. Approximately 520 intellectual contributions were made in basic or discovery research, 540 in applied or integrative research, and 115 contributions in teaching and learning research. Learn more at business.appstate.edu/research.