Code With EDGI! Environmental Enforcement Watch Does #Hacktoberfest2021

By Kelsey Breseman and Steve Hansen

On Wednesday, October 27 at 4PM Pacific / 7PM Eastern, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative’s Environmental Enforcement Watch (EEW) will hold an event as part of Hacktoberfest, a month-long series of events by and for the open source community. EEW’s event will include a brief demonstration of one of EEW’s open source Jupyter Notebooks followed by time to explore and hack on the project. 

EEW’s Notebook collects and sorts U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on major EPA programs, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (hazardous waste), and Safe Drinking Water Act. Data includes historical information on permits, violations, inspections, and enforcement cases. This Notebook and others by EEW have been used to develop reports and blog posts—some making media headlines.

Although EPA data is available through an EPA API, the API only covers the past few years and is limited in its coverage. EEW partnered with Stony Brook University to load the ECHO files into a PostgreSQL database that could make the data more easily queried. The Notebook we’ll be walking through in this event, ECHO-Cross-Program.ipynb, lets users choose a geographic region—state, county, congressional district, zip code—and then finds facilities and data within the region that the user can navigate through. 

This Notebook carves a somewhat narrow path through the data, though. We invite participation from the open source community in taking the Notebook to another level. We’ll explore ideas such as:

  • Expanding the Notebook to look into other geographic areas, e.g. watersheds, census blocks
  • Identifying types of pollutants emitted by specific facilities and EPA programs
  • Bringing in other datasets, such as census, to look into environmental justice questions
  • Searching for patterns of differential enforcement
  • Using datasets like Open Secrets to see where political contributions correlate with patterns of inspections and enforcement
  • Improving data visualizations
  • Making the Notebook more comprehensible to a wider range of users

Check out the Notebook in advance of the session. And join us! Register here to participate.