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Sheila Olmstead

Sheila  Olmstead

Associate Professor of Public Affairs

Contact Info

SRH 3.255

Office Hours

Mondays 2-3:30 PM

Faculty Website

Sheila Olmstead joined the LBJ School as an Associate Professor of Public Affairs in 2013. Before joining the LBJ School, Olmstead was a Fellow (2010-2013) and Senior Fellow (2013) at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C., as well as Associate Professor (2007-2010) and Assistant Professor (2002-2007) of Environmental Economics at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she was the recipient of three teaching awards. Olmstead is an environmental economist whose current research projects examine the environmental externalities associated with shale gas development in the United States, regulatory avoidance under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, the influence of federal fire suppression policy on land development in the American West, and free-riding in dam placement and water withdrawals in transboundary river basins. She has worked extensively on the economics of water resource management, focusing on water demand estimation, water conservation policy, and access to drinking water services among low-income communities. Climate and energy policy are additional topics of her research, especially with regard to the application of market-based environmental policy instruments.

Olmstead’s research has been published in leading journals such as the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Journal of Urban Economics, and Water Resources Research. With Nathaniel Keohane, she is the author of the 2007 book Markets and the Environment. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, World Bank, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Olmstead is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Water Resource Economics Consortium. She holds a PhD from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (2002), a Masters in Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin (1996), and a BA from the University of Virginia (1992).

Download Dr. Olmstead's CV.


Ph.D., Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2002

M.P.Aff., Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, 1996

B.A., Political and Social Thought, with High Distinction, University of Virginia, 1992

Current Positions

Associate Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs The University of Texas at Austin, 2013-

Visiting Fellow, Resources for the Future, 2013-

Deputy Director, Center for Reinventing Aging Infrastructure for Nutrient Management The University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, 2013-

Editorial Council member, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, 2014-

Co-Editor, Environmental and Resource Economics, 2014-

Book Review Editor, Water Economics and Policy, 2013-

Associate Editor, Water Resources Research, 2015-

Previous Positions

Resources for the Future
Senior Fellow, April – July 2013
Fellow (with tenure), July 2010 – March 2013
Visiting Scholar, July 2009 – June 2010

Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Associate Professor of Environmental Economics (untenured), December 2007 – June 2010
Secondary joint appointment, Department of Economics, December 2007 – June 2010
Assistant Professor of Environmental Economics, July 2002 – November 2007

Member, Board of Directors, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, 2012-2014

Associate Editor, Water Resources and Economics, 2012-2014

Published Journal Articles

“The economics of shale gas development,” Annual Review of Resource Economics 7 (in press), doi:
10.1146/annurev-resource-100814-125023, forthcoming October 2015, with Charles F. Mason and Lucija A.

“Water quality and quantity impacts of hydraulic fracturing,” Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports
(in press), doi: 10.1007/s40518-014-0023-4, January 2015, with Yusuke Kuwayama and Alan Krupnick.

“Managing the risks of shale gas development using innovative legal and regulatory approaches,” William &
Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review 39(1): 177-199, December 2014, with Nathan Richardson.

“Risks and risk governance in unconventional shale gas development,” Environmental Science and Technology
48(15): 8289-8297, August 2014, with Mitchell J. Small, Paul C. Stern, Elizabeth Bomberg, Susan M.
Christopherson, Bernard D. Goldstein, Andrei L. Israel, Robert B. Jackson, Alan Krupnick, Meagan S. Mauter,
Jennifer Nash, D. Warner North, Aseem Prakash, Barry Rabe, Nathan Richardson, Susan Tierney, Thomas
Webler, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, and Barbara Zielinska.

“Climate change adaptation and water resource management: A review of the empirical literature,” Energy Economics 46: 500-509, November 2014.

“Strategically placing green infrastructure: benefits and costs of land conservation in the floodplain,”
Environmental Science and Technology 47(8): 3563-3570, April 2013, with Carolyn Kousky, Margaret Walls,
and Molly Macauley.

“Shale gas development impacts on surface water quality in Pennsylvania,” Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, 110(13): 4962-4967, February 2013, with Lucija Muehlenbachs, Jhih-Shyang Shih, Ziyan
Chu, and Alan Krupnick.

“Moving pollution trading from air to water: potential, problems, and prognosis,” Journal of EconomicPerspectives 27(1): 147-172, Winter 2013, with Karen Fisher-Vanden.

“The value of scarce water: measuring the inefficiency of municipal regulations,” Journal of Urban Economics
71: 332-346, February 2012, with Erin T. Mansur.

“Three key elements of a post-2012 international climate policy architecture,” Review of Environmental
Economics and Policy 6(1): 65-85, January 2012, with Robert N. Stavins.

“The value of household water service quality in Lahore, Pakistan,” Environmental and Resource Economics
49(2): 173-198, doi: 10.1007/s10640-010-9429-7, May 2011, with Agha Ali Akram.

“The economics of managing scarce water resources,” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 4(2),
Summer 2010: 179-198. Reprinted in: Robert N. Stavins, ed., 2012, Economics of the Environment: Selected
Readings, 6th edition, New York: W. W. Norton & Company: 398-420.

“The economics of water quality,” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 4(1), Winter 2010: 44-62.

“The economic valuation of environmental amenities and disamenities: Methods and applications,” Annual
Review of Environment and Resources, 34, November 2009: 325-347, with Robert Mendelsohn.

“Sampling out: Regulatory avoidance and the Total Coliform Rule,” Environmental Science and Technology
43(14), July 2009: 5176-5182, with Lori S. Bennear and Katrina K. Jessoe.

“Comparing price and non-price approaches to water conservation,” Water Resources Research, 45(4), W04301,
doi:10.1029/2008WR007227, April 2009, with Robert N. Stavins. Reprinted in R. Quentin Grafton et al., eds.,
Water Security, Governance and Economics, Prahran, Australia: Tilde University Press, 2013, pp. 306-323.

“Reduced-form vs. structural models of water demand under non-linear prices,” Journal of Business and
Economic Statistics 27(1), January 2009: 84-94.

“The impact of the ‘right to know’: Information disclosure and the violation of drinking water standards,”
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 56(2), September 2008: 117-130, with Lori Bennear.

“Water demand under alternative price structures,” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management
54(2), September 2007: 181-198, with W. Michael Hanemann and Robert N. Stavins.

“A meaningful second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol,” The Economists’ Voice 4(3), June 2007,
with Robert N. Stavins. Reprinted in J. E. Stiglitz, A. Edlin and J. Bradford Delong, eds., The Economists’
Voice: Top Economists Take on Today’s Problems, Columbia University Press, New York: 28-36.

“An international policy architecture for the post-Kyoto era,” American Economic Review, Papers and
Proceedings 95(2), May 2006: 35-38, with Robert N. Stavins.

“Thirsty colonias: Rate regulation and the provision of water service,” Land Economics 80(1), February 2004:

“Water supply and poor communities: What’s price got to do with it?” Environment 45(10), December 2003:

“Environmental regulation in the 1990s: A retrospective analysis,” Harvard Environmental Law Review 27(2),
July 2003:377-415, with Robert W. Hahn and Robert N. Stavins. Reprinted in R. N. Stavins, ed., The Political
Economy of Environmental Regulation, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 533-571; and R. N. Stavins, ed.,
Economics of the Environment: Selected Readings, 5th edition, W. W. Norton & Company, New York: 616-648.


Markets and the Environment: An Introduction to Environmental and Resource Economics, with Nathaniel O.
Keohane, June 2007, Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Book Chapters

“Water quality and economics: willingness to pay, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and new research frontiers,”
in: The Handbook on the Economics of Natural Resources. Ed. David Layton and Robert Halvorsen, Elgar,
Amsterdam: 474-501 (2015), with Yusuke Kuwayama.

“The role of market incentives in environmental policy,” in: The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Environmental
Policy. Ed. Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael E. Kraft, Oxford University Press, New York: 553-581 (2012).

“In harm’s way: Homeowner behavior and wildland fire policy,” in: Wildfire Policy: Law and Economics
Perspectives. Ed. Dean Lueck and Karen Bradshaw, Taylor and Francis, Washington, DC: 178-199 (2011), with
Carolyn Kousky and Roger Sedjo.

“Applying market principles to environmental policy,” in: Environmental Policy: New Directions for the
Twenty-First Century, 7th edition. Ed. Norman J. Vig and Michael E. Kraft, Congressional Quarterly Press,
Washington, DC: 197-219 (2010).

“The whole and the sum of its parts: Comments on David Victor’s ‘Fragmented carbon markets and reluctant
nations’,” in: Architectures for Agreement: Addressing Global Climate Change in the Post-Kyoto World. Ed.
Joseph Aldy and Robert Stavins, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK: 173-184 (2007).
Other Publications

“Should we all take a bit of Lithium?!” RFF Common Resources Blog, 5 November 2014, with Paul von

“Exporting the cost of dams,” RFF Common Resources Blog, 8 August 2014, with Hilary Sigman.

“Managing the risks of shale gas development using innovative legal and regulatory approaches,” RFF Common
Resources Blog, 23 June 2014, with Nathan Richardson.

“Making the most of Texas SWIFT water rescue,” Austin American-Statesman, Op-Ed, 2 April 2014, with Ron

“Pathways to dialogue: what the experts say about the environmental risks of shale gas development.” RFF
Report, February 2013, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC, with Alan Krupnick and Hal Gordon.

“Water and the California Economy,” Public Policy Institute of California Report, May 2012, San Francisco,
CA. With Ellen Hanak, Jay Lund, Barton “Buzz” Thompson, W. Bowman Cutter, Brian Gray, David Houston,
Richard Howitt, Katrina Jessoe, Gary Libecap, Josué Medellín-Azuara, Daniel Sumner, David Sunding, Brian
Thomas, and Robert Wilkinson.

“Unnatural disasters?” Resources 179: 21-23, February 2012, with Carolyn Kousky.

“The role of land use in adaptation to increased precipitation and flooding: A case study in Wisconsin’s
Lower Fox River Basin,” RFF Report, November 2011, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC, with
Carolyn Kousky, Margaret Walls, Molly Macauley, and Adam Stern.

“Use prices to conserve water when supplies are scarce,” RFF Weekly Policy Commentary, 8 August 2011, with
Erin T. Mansur, available at:

“A case study in economic analysis of the National Water Quality Assessment Program: Salinity control in the
upper Colorado River Basin.” RFF Report, November 2010, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC, with
Jhih-Shyang Shih.

“The essential pillars of a new climate pact,” The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, 20 Sept. 2009, with Robert Stavins.

“Information disclosure and drinking water quality.” RFF Weekly Policy Commentary, 1 Dec. 2008, with Lori
S. Bennear, available at: Reprinted 2009 in Resources 173: 6-7.
Work in Progress

“Induced development in risky locations: Fire suppression and land use in the American West,” with Carolyn
Kousky (in submission, working paper available).

“Damming the commons: an empirical analysis of international cooperation and conflict in dam location,” with
Hilary Sigman (in revision, working paper available).

“Droughts, dams and economic activity,” with Hilary Sigman (in progress)

“Water resources and unconventional fossil fuel development: linking physical impact to social costs,” with
Yusuke Kuwayama and Alan Krupnick (working paper available).

“Characterization of residual liquid waste from Marcellus Shale gas development and comparison with regional
water quality monitoring capability,” with Shimon Anisfeld, Jessica Chu, Lucija Muehlenbachs, James Saiers,
and Jhih-Shyang Shih (in revision, working paper available).

“Effects of oil and gas development on agriculture: the importance of water resources,” with Tim Fitzgerald,
Yusuke Kuwayama, and Alan Krupnick (in progress).

“Does information disclosure induce regulatory avoidance among drinking water providers?” with Jonathan
Baker and Lori Bennear (in progress).

“Costly regulations? Strategic compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.” With Katrina Jessoe and Lori
Bennear (in progress).