In recent years, different levels of government in Canada and the United States have claimed that public complaints are an important source of information for the enforcement of environmental regulations. Public complaints provide monitoring at a lower cost than inspections but are inaccurate because citizens lack the information to assess a potential environmental threat properly. Little existing literature examines the use of public complaints in enforcing environmental regulations. Using a dataset of environmental reports in the province of Alberta between January 1996 and September 2002, this paper details the use of public complaints to enforce Alberta's environmental legislation and examines the effectiveness of public complaints in different industries and for different environmental threats. I find that that the majority of public complaints are simply odour complaints, and that public complaints are investigated less often over time and very rarely lead to enforcement action.
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