Comparing Risk Management Practices at the Local Levels of Government with Those at the State and Federal Levels

by Kenneth A. Solomon

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This paper contrasts the current view of risk management held by local government officials with that held by state and federal government officials. While generalization is difficult, the findings suggest that, compared to state and federal officials, local government officials have little understanding of, and hence little concern for, the quantity of risk posed to citizens by various hazards. To the extent that it appears desirable to place risk-management decisions in the hands of local government officials, some capacity for risk quantification and comparison must be developed. The findings presented in this paper are drawn from both generalized surveys of local and state decisionmakers, and analyses of specific cases. These case studies involved decisions to remove asbestos from schools, close down a copper smelting facility, shut off contaminated drinking-water wells, site hazardous waste facilities, and store hazardous chemicals.

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