Fifty Years After the EPA’s Formation, EDGI Releases A People’s EPA


DECEMBER 10, 2020

CONTACT: For media inquiries, please contact EDGI communications coordinator Shannan Lenke Stoll,

Fifty Years After the EPA’s Formation, EDGI Releases A People’s EPA

December 10, 2020 Today the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) launches a collaborative digital project, A People’s EPA (APE). Since December 1970, Congress has charged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with implementing laws that protect us from air pollution, dirty water, and hazardous waste. Launching 50 years after the EPA’s establishment, the new project website helps illuminate the complex history, present day struggles, and future direction of the country’s lead environmental agency. 

Over the past four years, the EPA has suffered considerable damages under the Trump administration as EDGI and partners have documented. Yet going back long before Trump took office, the elaborate and often inaccessible processes for carrying out environmental laws in the U.S. have often impeded public participation in environmental governance.

On its website, A People’s EPA gives journalists, policy makers, and the public access to data, personal stories and testimony, and context to understand the EPA in the era of Trump and beyond. In the initial launch, the site provides access to some of EDGI’s large collection of oral histories with past and present EPA staff, as well as an interactive page on the origins of the agency. 

APE is a collaborative project, and the site launch also includes resources from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Environmental Protection Network, and other groups that help the public understand the agency. The site is also home to a new collection of searchable federal documents gathered by the Sierra Club and other green groups through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Over time, the website will house EDGI’s interviews with EPA officials, long-term data on enforcement and budget at the EPA, curated historical documents and key reports, as well as historical narratives, timelines, and policy analysis. Upcoming additions will include pages, documents, and interviews on presidential transitions, agency capacity, enforcement, environmental justice, and children’s health. In early 2021, the APE project will help host a webinar with other groups on the history and future of the EPA.

URL for A People’s EPA website: 

A People’s EPA creators from EDGI are available for interviews, background, and comment.

Press quotes from EDGI members, as well as from the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Protection Network:

From its inception to the present, the EPA has been of profound importance to Americans and the planet. But it is a complex agency and it has only gotten more complex and hard to understand over time. It’s our hope that this website will allow people to grasp where the agency came from, what it’s doing now, and how they might shape the direction of the agency themselves. 
Leif Fredrickson, interview curator for EDGI and A People’s EPA creator

The website design by Omnivore, Inc., hints at the EPA’s foundations in the 1970s but transforms them into a transparent hub. The “A People’s EPA” website aims to expose and illuminate the EPA’s often hard-to-find information—grounded in EDGI’s watchdog ethos—as the EPA is rebuilt, brick by brick, in the Biden transition.
Jessica Varner, assistant interview curator for EDGI and A People’s EPA creator

The original purposes and democratic potential for the EPA have become ever harder to recall. And under Trump, the agency has been stigmatized by hostile political forces. But the persisting truth is that laws effectively prohibiting the pollution of our air, water, and land serve as a check on wealthy and powerful institutions, to protect the living environments of millions of ordinary Americans A properly functioning EPA serves the people rather than those it regulates, and provides an environmental bulwark for American democracy.
Chris Sellers, EDGI member and Professor of Environmental History, Stony Brook University

We have a lot to learn from EPA’s 50 year history as we take on new and emerging environmental and public health challenges. EDGI’s website will be an invaluable resource.
Michelle Roos, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Network

The use of science to inform decisions at the EPA has come under intense attack over the past four years, harming public health and our environment. This time has been uniquein the half century since its creation in 1970, the EPA has implemented science-based policies that have saved countless lives. Transparency and science-informed decisions are key to ensuring that the agency continues to make progress on a myriad of issues and puts people first.  
Jacob Carter, Research Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists


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.