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NC - Shifting Sands: Using Taxes to Build the Best Beaches, with Megan Mullin

Resources Radio: This week, host Daniel Raimi talks with Megan Mullin, an associate professor of environmental politics at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Mullin talks about her research, which analyzes how communities pay to rehabilitate beaches affected by erosion and how differential tax rates can affect levels of support for these beach nourishment projects.

Mullin also makes clear why coastal management is relevant: as climate change accelerates the erosion of beaches, and as federal funding dries up, local communities will increasingly have to grapple with how to pay to replenish their shorelines.

Notable Quotes

  • Preparing waterfront property for climate change: “Beach nourishment is quite simply the import of sand from some other location, typically offshore, to rebuild an eroded beach. It’s an old practice. The first major project in the United States was almost a hundred years ago, but it’s increasing with time, as sea level rise and more frequent and more severe coastal storms are amplifying erosion patterns at the shore.” (4:29)
  • Potential for differential tax rates: “[Governments] want to provide public goods, but taxpayers often don’t want to pay for those public goods. And so they’re using these instruments, which [include] this differential property tax rate … They create these special taxing districts and define a set of properties that will differentially enjoy benefits from the project and tax those properties at a rate as much as 10 or 15 times the citywide tax rate.” (10:15)
  • Why the public supports beach nourishment: “We can’t discount the importance of the immediate return in beach nourishment. There is this amenity value that exists in this policy space where you widen the beach, and it’s lovely. You can go fly a kite, you can take long walks on the beach, you get this scenic value and an immediate boost in your tourism revenue. Not all adaptation strategies are going to have that kind of immediate return.” (24:35)

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The Full Transcript

Daniel Raimi: Hello and welcome to Resources Radio, a weekly podcast from Resources for the Future. I'm your host, Daniel Raimi. This week we talk with Dr. Megan Mullin, Associate Professor of Environmental Politics at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. I'll talk with Megan about her work on beaches. In particular—how do communities pay for building up beaches that are affected by erosion, and how do different tax rates affect the preferences of people to support those projects. We'll talk about how these policies are playing out today and what they might mean for the future in the context of a changing climate and rising sea levels. Stay with us.

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