In over 80% of California cities, waste disposal services are provided by private
companies operating under monopoly franchises granted to them by local jurisdictions.
In all cases, the franchise-granting entity � usually a city � sets waste disposal prices.
This dissertation examines the methods used by cities to set prices, the motivation of
city/regulators in using these particular methods, whether these methods are successful in
keeping prices close to marginal costs and � when they are not successful � why this is
so. What will be shown is that in setting prices, cities seldom use competitive bidding.
Instead, cities have developed a complex set of metrics and algorithms to routinely adjust
prices, which are termed �price adjustment systems.� Using a model based on the work of
Stigler and Peltzman, it will be argued that these price adjustment systems are not
examples of �regulatory capture� but instead reflect the actions of a benign regulator
endeavoring to align prices as closely as possible to the franchisee's costs. Finally,
commercial waste disposal prices set by cities will be compared to those set in
competitive markets. It will be further argued that the wide variation in franchised
commercial pricing, relative to market rates, correlates with the competitive waste
hauling environment in the area where the franchise-granting city is located. The more
competitors that are present, the lower the rates. In other words, even regulated markets
can be �contestable� in the Baumolian sense, and as in competitive markets, the presence
of potential competitors has the effect of minimizing prices.