Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Adam Wellstead

Committee Member 1

Shan Zhou

Committee Member 2

Audrey Mayer


Conceptualized as early as 1920 by English economist Arthur Cecil Pigou, but not formalized until later work in the 1970s and 1990s, “environmental charges” are a form of Pigouvian taxes that suggest the revenue burden of governance could be shifted from economic “goods” to environmental “bads”. While their association with Pigouvian taxes would suggest that environmental charges are applied as a policy instrument to encourage the reduction or elimination of environmental externalities, their application at the federal level in the United States suggests this is not the case. This report postulates that federally applied environmental charges accept environmental externalities as the status quo and are instead intended to recover the government’s cost in addressing the environmental externality.