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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

“Climate change and water resources: some adaptation tools and their limits,” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, in press, with Karen Fisher-Vanden and Renata Rimsaite.

“Damming the commons: an empirical analysis of international cooperation and conflict in dam location,” Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 2(4): 497-526, December 2015, with Hilary Sigman.

“The economics of shale gas development,” Annual Review of Resource Economics 7: 269-289, October 2015, with Charles F. Mason and Lucija A. Muehlenbachs.

“Characterization and analysis of liquid waste from Marcellus Shale gas development,” Environmental Science and Technology 49(16): 9557-9565, July 2015, with Shimon Anisfeld, Ziyan Chu, Lucija Muehlenbachs, James Saiers, and Jhih-Shyang Shih.

“Water quality and quantity impacts of hydraulic fracturing,” Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports, 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 Economic Perspectives 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: 136-150.

“Water supply and poor communities: What’s price got to do with it?” Environment 45(10), December 2003: 22-35.

“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, Island Press, Washington, D.C. First edition 2007, Second edition 2016.

Wastewater and Shale Formation Development (Editor), July 2015, Apple Academic Press, Waretown, N.J.

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, 6th, 7th and 8th editions. Ed. Norman J. Vig and Michael E. Kraft, Congressional Quarterly Press, Washington, DC (2009, 2012, 2015).

“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).