Course Syllabus

PUBP 622 Environmental Policy Syllabus (Fall 2015)

Instructor: Rob Hicks
Office: Morton 129
Class Time: (Thursday) 4:00-6:20
Class Room: 201 Morton Hall


Environmental Policy examines applied approaches to tackling environmental policy questions by way of case studies. These case studies are comprised of a theoretical introduction, policy simulation, and policy recommendations. We will be developing simulation tools for designing and understanding the effects of environmental policy. These simulations will incorporate researcher uncertainty with respect to preference parameters held by agents (people) affected by the policy under consideration. No prior programming experience is required but is certainly a major plus.

This course will require you to program in Python and for those who have no programming experience will be a very serious undertaking. You will need to have a rudimentary understanding (or a willingness to learn on your own) linear algebra and be comfortable with intermediate microeconomics. To get a quick feel for what simple programming in Python entails, examine some of my blog posts (

A student who puts in the time and work to master the course materials will have a good understanding of the technical underpinnings of benefit-cost analysis and applied policy analysis for environmental problems. Furthermore, you will learn how to use the Python scientific computing platform.

It is important to note that this class

  • Will not cover descriptions and summaries of current US environmental policy, except where needed for our policy analysis. If you are looking for a survey course of US federal and local environmental policy, this course will not do it.
  • Cover the application of some simple microeconomic models to environmental problems by policy simulation which will sometimes use actual data (for example, the power industry and local land-use).

Key Dates

Date Item
To be determined Computer Labs
October 12 & 13 Fall Break
October 15 Mid-Term (take home) No Class
November 25-27 Thanksgiving
December 8 Final Exam (9-12pm)



Will only be used for posting grades.

Office Hours

I am available on Tuesdays from 4pm-6pm, or by appointment. If my door is open, you are free to drop by at any other time.

Email Policy

I will respond to emails but only if they contain the tag [PUBP622] in the subject line. If they do not, the google will likely delete your email.


Your grade will be based on a Mid-term (30%), 4 problem sets (40% each) and a Final Exam (30%). All exams in the course will be take home exams.

Travel and Makeup Dates

Because of grant and other commitments, I may miss a few classes (if I know in advance, these are noted in the Key Dates table outlined above). To make up for any lectures I may miss, I may schedule a two hour makeup class occuring at a time and place to be determined.

Computer Lab

On certain days to be determined, we will meet in Morton 244 for some hands-on work with Python.

Course Materials

You might find the latest version of the textbook Environmental and Natural Resource Economics by Tom Teitenberg and Lynne Lewis (I believe this is ISBN: 0321485718) useful for this course particularly if you aren't a Public Policy graduate student. Older editions are probably sufficient for your needs. I will place a copy on reserve at the Library. Additional readings are on the course blackboard site. Additionally, the book Public Policies for Environmental Protection by Portney and Stavins is an excellent Environmental Policy resource. The book summarizes major U.S. Environmental Policy with an eye towards critiquing it based on the notions of efficiency and cost effectiveness. The chapters are linked in the syllabus below (although some pages are apparently greyed out) and the Law School has a copy in their library. All other readings and this syllabus can be found in the course's google docs site found at

Policy on Late Assignments

Course assignments must be turned in on time. Late work will be accepted for up to two additional days with Saturday and Sunday counting as 1 day in total) with a letter grade deduction for each late day. After two days, late assignments will not be accepted. The course final project is due at the time of the final exam and University policy will not allow me to accept it after that time. See below for some examples:

Due Date Turned in Your Grade Your Grade after Penalty
Tuesday Thursday A C
Thursday Saturday or Sunday A C
Tuesday Friday A F (not accepted)
Thursday Monday A F (not accepted)
Hardcopy Policy

For some assignments, I might ask you to turn in a hardcopy version of your work. You may give it to me in person, put it in my box in Morton 110, or slide it under my door in Morton 129. Should you not give it to me in person and the work goes missing, you remain responsible for getting me your work on time to avoid late assignment penalties.

Grade Discrepancies and Grade Questions

I am happy to discuss questions you have about your grade on class assignments. Any questions you have regarding a potential grade change on an assignment must be cleared up within 1 week of recieving your work back from me. The only exception to this policy is if I made an arithmetic error or data entry in adding your score up and entering it into blackboard.

Order of Topics

A Primer on the Tools

Case Studies

  • Brief Introduction to Market Failure in Economics
  • Python Primer
  • Solving for market equilibrium
  • Solving for Pigouvian Efficient Tax and Equilibrium
  • Adding in attribute and preference heterogeneity


  • Tietenberg and Lewis (Chap. 2)
  • Ge et al.

Ipython Notebook:

Regulating Uniformly Mixing Pollutants
  • Microeconomic Introduction to Pollution Permits and Taxes
  • Background on US Air Pollution Policy
  • Explore EPA Air Market Data in Python
  • Model Firm and Industry behavior in Python
  • Model Permit Trading Equilibrium (with initial permit allocation mechanism)
  • Model Pollution Fee Equilibrium


  • The economics of common property open access
  • Brief overview of fisheries management and policy
  • Model population dynamics
  • Model firm and industry behavior
  • Model outcomes comparing effort restrictions and ex-vessel taxes


  • Hardin
  • Ostrom
  • Grafton
  • Gordon
  • Tietenberg and Lewis (Chaps 13)

The following topics as time allows.

Regulating Non-Uniformly Mixing Pollutants
  • Microeconomic Introduction to NUM Pollutants
  • Background on US Water Pollution Policy
  • Model Natural system discharges and simple hydrodynamics
  • Model Firm and Industry Behavior under permit trading and pollution fees.
  • Model trading ratios when regulator uncertainty


Biodiversity Preservation
  • The economics of enforcement and compliance
  • Overview of US Biodiversity Policy
  • Modeling of regulator and firm behavior
  • Implications for Private Biodiversity Preservation