Environmental regulations that grandfather existing plants by not holding them to the same strict standards as new plants may have the unintended consequence of retarding new investment. If new plants are cleaner, then this effect may increase pollution in the short run. I develop a dynamic model of a facility's decisions over scrapping and abatement, which depend on capital depreciation, profitability shocks, and environmental policy. Using data from fossil fuel fired boilers at electric power plants, I estimate the structural parameters of the model and assess the impact of grandfathering in the Clean Air Act on sulfur dioxide emissions. Counterfactual policy simulations show that an increase in the stringency of performance standards would have led to a decrease in investment in new boilers. However, this does not lead to increased emissions, since there is less investment in dirtier coal boilers as compared to relatively cleaner oil or natural gas boilers.
Heutel, Garth, "Plant vintages, grandfathering, and environmental policy" (2010). Economics Faculty Publications. 14.