Applying Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework, and design principles for co-production to pollution management in Louisville's Rubbertown, Kentucky

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Mar 03, 2021
Sait Sarr, Bunny Hayes, and Daniel A. DeCaro



Rubbertown, located in West Louisville, Kentucky, USA, is a highly industrialized area with several chemical and materials manufacturing plants. For decades, residents in the area have experienced continuous air pollution problems. City monitoring and enforcement of pollution has improved recently, after residents and non-government organizations protested. However, overall pollution levels in Rubbertown remain high because of inconsistent monitoring, enforcement, and we argue- gaps in citizen-government co-production of pollution control. Collaborative solutions are required because air pollution is difficult to monitor completely top-down, and effective coordination requires shared decision making. To understand the root causes of this dilemma, and identify potential policy solutions, we interviewed key stakeholders and collected background information about the case. We used Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to understand the factors and political/economic dynamics that have created the current problem. We analyze this dilemma using Ostrom’s design principles for co-production, and related concepts of state-reinforced self-governance. We find significant gaps in co-production. Grassroots, neighborhood-level monitoring is not integrated with or legitimized by formal government agencies. Communication among key stakeholders is infrequent, and decision making is primarily top-down, giving residents little control over pollution in their neighborhoods. Costs and benefits of monitoring and enforcement are not shared equitably among the key actors, and there are low levels of trust. These gaps may be remedied by policies that empower residents to formally monitor air pollution in their neighborhoods, greater representation of residents on the pollution control district board, and collaborative programs that facilitate shared decision making among key actors.

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