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Are monetary penalties for offending corporations effective in preventing further toxic releases?

As part of its enforcement mandate, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the United States may administer economic penalties for toxic releases by companies. The question that this article by Stretesky, Long and Lynch raises is how (if at all) these penalties (severe at times) influence the companies’ further releases of toxic substances. One would expect that once penalised for misbehaviour and their non-abidance by certain environmental standards, companies would take adequate steps to avoid further fines in the future. However, the results of this study indicate that there is a very weak relationship between penalties and toxic releases. In fact, penalties may actually legitimate companies’ actions rather than limit their environmental impacts.


Stretesky, P. B., Long, M. A., & Lynch, M. J. (2013). Does environmental enforcement slow the treadmill of production? The relationship between large monetary penalties, ecological disorganization and toxic releases within offending corporations. Journal of Crime and Justice, 36(2), 233–247.

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