FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2022
Contact: Shannan Lenke Stoll, ShannanStoll.EDGI@gmail.com
Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced through their Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance that they are launching “ECHO Notify.” According to the agency news release, the email alert tool “provides information on all EPA enforcement and compliance activities as well as activities of state and local governments under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.” The public can sign up to receive emails every week with information on activities taking place at facilities within a selected region.
In response, Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) experts released the following statements:
Eric Nost, EDGI member and assistant professor at the University of Guelph, said:
“EPA’s new ECHO Notify tool is an important step in rectifying the long-term decline in its enforcement of U.S. environmental laws. Strong environmental regulations are only as good as their enforcement. Black, Latine, Indigenous, and low-income communities, among other historically marginalized groups, continue to face disproportionate exposure to polluting industries—industries that often fail to comply with regulations on the release of toxic chemicals into our air and water. Without easily accessible data, communities, journalists, and activists cannot hold industries accountable for violating their permits to pollute.
“Too often, communities are burdened not only by the harms of industrial pollution, but by having to navigate complex data systems to learn about this pollution and advocate for change. Effective and equitable environmental governance requires that communities have full and easy access to EPA data on its enforcement of, and industry compliance with, environmental laws impacting them. The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative hopes that the ECHO Notify tool will accomplish this and EDGI is working with community organizations to review the tool and provide feedback to EPA.”
Kelsey Breseman, EDGI civic science fellow, said:
“When a facility violates its Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act permit, communities living nearby could be impacted. ECHO Notify enables the public to sign up to receive email alerts about violations and enforcement actions at industrial facilities of interest to them, in their zip, county or state. By knowing what’s happening, as it happens, communities have the power to choose appropriate action.”
Notes for editors:
- During the Trump administration, state and federal EPA enforcement actions against industry dropped 28% and 23% in the congressional districts and states of legislators overseeing the EPA, respectively, compared to the previous 16 years. Meanwhile, violations increased in the congressional districts examined, with Clean Water Act violations increasing by a median of 98%. (See EDGI’s report, Democratizing Data: Environmental Enforcement Watch’s Report Cards for Congressional Oversight of the EPA).
- EDGI has long advocated for the creation of alert tools to share industry and EPA data with the public:
- From A Green New Deal for Environmental Data: A Green New Deal for environmental data must include “the development of data tools that alert interested communities and agencies when regulatory thresholds are exceeded.”
- From Democratizing Data: Environmental Enforcement Watch’s Report Cards for Congressional Oversight of the EPA: Regarding the need to improve oversight of EPA enforcement: “It is not feasible for the EPA or state environmental agencies in their present configurations to effectively oversee the existing large number of operating facilities. In New York, there are more than 30,000 facilities regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) alone. To close the huge gaps in reporting and compliance, we must develop systems that help environmental organizations and community stakeholders engage in oversight. Such a system could include: … Adding automatic alerts that community residents can sign up to receive about local facilities, industries, or chemicals of interest or concern” (pg. 40).
About EDGI: The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) analyzes federal environmental data, websites, institutions, and policy. We seek to improve environmental data stewardship and to promote environmental health and environmental justice.