Environmental Data and Governance Initiative is a large collaborative effort between academics and non-profits to track, analyze and respond to changes in U.S. Federal environmental governance under the Trump Administration. Sara Wylie is a founding member of EDGI and the co-editor with Rebecca Lave of their The First 100 Days and Counting Series of rapid response academic reports on changes to Federal Environmental Governance.
Toward the end of the Obama administration there was real promise that citizen science could become foundational to the operations of the EPA. Public Lab co-founder Shannon Dosemagen was a co-author a National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology titled: “Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public, A Vision for Citizen Science at EPAEnvironmental Protection Belongs to the Public, A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA” which recommended that EPA:
• Embrace citizen science as a core tenet of environmental protection.
• Invest in citizen science for communities, partners and the Agency.
• Enable the use of citizen science data at the Agency.
• Integrate citizen science into the full range of work of EPA
Needless to say hopes for such a community driven approach to environmental governance dimmed with the election of the Trump Administration. Interested in continuing to push for alternative and community grounded forms of environmental health research, Wylie has helped to build and conceptualize EDGI.
EDGI documents, contextualizes, and analyzes current changes to environmental data and governance practices, by using multidisciplinary and cross-professional collaborative approaches. EDGI fosters the stewardship and expansion of public knowledge through building participatory civic technologies and infrastructures to make data and decision-making more accessible. EDGI creates new communities of practice to enable government and industry accountability.
Archiving Federal Environmental Data:
EDGI’s flagship effort, in partnership with The Internet Archive, organized hundreds of volunteers in nation-wide public events to archive federal environmental data. In collaboration with University of Pennsylvania Library, EDGI built a public repository of environmental data that is vital to tracking and proving Climate Change.
Monitoring Federal Websites:
EDGI has developed a whole new way of tracking and reporting on changes to federal websites. We have built a new source of environmental news that makes evident the administration’s efforts to make Climate Change harder to address by limiting public access to information. EDGI reports have been cited in more than 100 news articles and are regularly covered by The Washington Post, The New York Times, POLITICO, E&E News, The Guardian, Vox and other outlets. In December 2017, our work was featured on CNN and aired on a CNN segment, as well as was written about in a PBS Frontline piece. We are an important source for the well-respected Union of Concerned Scientists, which requested a blog post by our team.
In one of the most significant findings, EDGI published a report and blog post, documenting how a previous EPA website showing climate and energy Web resources for state, local, and tribal governments, was replaced by one that is 200 pages shorter and omits climate information. Following New York Times coverage, seven Democratic senators wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt demanding the previous website be returned and that an explanation for the removals be provided. The issues around the significant climate change website overhaul were raised in Administrator Pruitt’s House hearing and we are continuing to brief staffers in advance of Mr. Pruitt’s Senate hearing in late January.
Envisioning Environmental Data Justice
EDGI is actively working to reimagine environmental governance particularly through developing alternative values based data infrastructures and processes, which we describe as Environmental Data Justice.