EDGI Receives NSF Grant to Research How National EJ Movement Has Affected EPA’s Approach to Data and Science

Dusk view of the Valero Energy Corporation’s refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith (CC BY-NC).

Last month EDGI received a Science and Technology Studies (STS) program grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate how the environmental justice (EJ) movement in the United States has affected data- and science-related values, methods, and practices at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the last four decades. 

Building on prior studies of this agency undertaken by interdisciplinary researchers at the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), the proposed project hones in on a pivotal yet problematic arena of the EPA’s incorporation of environmental justice into its work: its approaches to cumulative exposure. 

EDGI members will study how the EPA approaches to data and science have been influenced by the rise of the environmental justice movement over the past forty years through three research questions: 

  1. How has the EPA addressed the science, including civic science, of cumulative exposure? 
  2. How have the EPA’s approaches to defining, collecting, and using data been adapted to address environmental justice communities’ challenges? 
  3. How have bureaucratic decisions reliant on science and affecting EJ communities been revised under pressure from the environmental justice movement and its allies? 

Two prominent environmental justice groups will be collaborating on this research, which is also advised by an interdisciplinary committee of scholars.

Through interviews and analysis of the published record, archives, and documents obtained through FOIA, the project will investigate internal considerations as well as external pressures that drove the EPA’s neglect, rejection, or incorporation of EJ community knowledge and concerns.