Jeffords Explores the Role of Constitutional Protections of Environment Rights in Pennsylvania

Posted on 2/18/2015 10:12:41 AM

Christopher Jeffords’ forthcoming publication in the Pennsylvania Economic Review considers the economic and legal ramifications of the constitutional human right to water explicitly stated in Article I, Section 27 (“Natural Resources and the Public Estate”) of Pennsylvania’s Constitution. 

Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas yields at least two possible negative externalities associated with drinking water: a reduction in the quantity, quality, or both. Furthermore, these externalities can engender an inability to fulfill the minimum quantity and quality requirements of the human right to water.

This paper develops a basic externality model to: (1) demonstrate how violations of these minimum requirements can occur; and (2) offer a human rights and economic policy framework to address the violations. By extending the neoclassical conception of the social optimum and considering the role of constitutional environmental human rights, violations are addressed and mitigated with a Pigovian Tax within a due standard of care negligence model.

The results demonstrate how fulfillment of the right depends on the number of natural gas producers and the extent to which each can be held accountable for violations. The analysis also indicates that monopoly production can lead to fewer violations of the right.

Department of Economics