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sustainability, fiscal capacity, environment


Sustainability policymaking presents numerous challenges to local governments. Municipal leaders, especially in smaller cities and towns, report that they lack the fiscal capacity and/or technical expertise to adopt many environmental protection policies. This paper investigates whether the more than 2,000 municipally-owned utilities have the potential to mitigate those problems. Data from two surveys of local governments in the United States (n=861), modeled in a pair of negative binomial regressions, finds a positive correlation between those cities with municipal power companies and those with an increased number of community-wide sustainable energy policies. Follow-up interviews with officials reveal the potential mechanisms driving sustainability by local governments that own power companies. These mechanisms are the increased capacity that publicly-owned utilities provide by virtue of income generated and access to energy-specific grants as well as the local nature of their operations, which allows a better fit of sustainable energy measures to local circumstances.

Publisher Attribution

The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Vol.34(6), 2015. published by SAGE Publishing, All rights reserved.

Homsy, G. C. (2015). Powering sustainability: Municipal utilities and local government policymaking. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space,34(6), 1076 - 1094. doi: 10.1177/0263774X15596530



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