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Paying for rain: the emergence, diffusion, and form of stormwater fees in the United States, 1964-2017

Chalfant, Brian Alexander (2018) Paying for rain: the emergence, diffusion, and form of stormwater fees in the United States, 1964-2017. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Across the United States, at least 1,600 local governments in 40 states have enacted stormwater fees since the mid-1960s. Many of these local governments enacted stormwater fees to finance costly infrastructure upgrades required by increasingly stringent federal and state regulation of stormwater systems and combined sewer overflows. The sustained spread of stormwater fees across the United States over the past five decades reflects a significant shift of fiscal responsibility for operating, maintaining, and improving key public infrastructure systems to the local level. This dissertation investigates the emergence, diffusion, and form of stormwater fees enacted by local governments in the United States over the past 50 years. Structured by several theoretical frameworks and utilizing a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, this research identifies key vertical and horizontal intergovernmental dynamics influencing the enactment of stormwater fees by local governments across the country. While underscoring the strong influence that federal and state regulation of municipal stormwater systems has played in popularizing stormwater fees among local governments in the United States, my research also highlights the crucial role that state-level statutory law, case law, and administrative approaches have had on expanding or contracting the options local governments have for implementing stormwater fees individually within their own jurisdictions and collectively across metropolitan regions. My case studies of stormwater fee form suggest that the challenges to broadly scoped collective action characterizing stormwater management and finance in highly fragmented metropolitan regions may present transaction cost barriers too high to be surmounted without coercive intervention from a higher level of government, but that collective action of more limited scope can be achieved in relatively self-organized manner. This research also demonstrates the enduring and important role that consulting firms and professional industry associations have played in influencing stormwater fee enactment by local governments across the United States over the past half-century.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chalfant, Brian Alexanderwater.wonk@pitt.edubac840000-0002-2562-4691
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMiller, David Y.dymiller@pitt.edudymiller
Committee MemberComfort, Louise K.lkc@pitt.edulkc
Committee MemberMurtazashvili, Iliailia.murtazashvili@pitt.eduimurtaz
Committee MemberBain, Daniel J.dbain@pitt.edudbain
Committee MemberFinewood, Michael
Date: 17 August 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 August 2018
Approval Date: 17 August 2018
Submission Date: 17 August 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 298
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: stormwater fees, public finance, local government, United States, environmental policy, multiple streams, collective learning, policy diffusion, institutional collective action
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2018 19:19
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2018 19:19


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