LETTER FROM OUR COORDINATING COMMITTEE
In the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI)’s first four years, we tracked harms to federal environmental governance in the United States made by the Trump administration. Our vision was always to do more than document harm; we seek accountability and restoration. We dream of an active justice, an environmental governance system that centers the voices of those most marginalized by industry and government alike.
Since EDGI formed in the wake of Trump’s election, one might expect Biden’s victory to alter EDGI’s work massively. However, our day-to-day activities remain much the same: monitoring for changes to government websites concerning environmental information, seeking accountability for environmental harm, making transparent environmental data for all communities, and envisioning better ways of relating agencies and governance to people and lands. The main difference is that now we have more hope of reconciling our vision with the reality we see playing out. There is much work to do. We are positioned not only to illustrate the harms we’ve witnessed but also to push further toward a more just and participatory model of environmental governance than ever before.
Conversations starting in early 2018 helped us realize that EDGI’s mission and vision are more enduring than watchdogging a single presidential administration. We’ve undertaken the work of bolstering our internal structure to better advocate for community participation, document ongoing changes, and support scientific backing for environmental governance for years to come—including an exciting transition this spring from our original fiscal sponsor Public Lab to the professional fiscal sponsor Multiplier, which also provides incubator services for our growth and has helped us transition our paid contractors into employees. The new sponsor gives us stability, supports our value of justice and equity in labor, and ensures that our volunteers can do the work they came to EDGI to do.
In this transformational moment, we will continue to develop EDGI as an agent for collaborative environmental care and conscientious co-creation of just and sustainable futures. Thank you for your interest in our work.
Between May 2020 and June 2021, EDGI:
- Had our work featured in 63 publications across 52 news outlets, including Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian.
- Released a new environmental data justice project, Environmental Enforcement Watch (EEW), which works with communities to answer questions using data on compliance with and enforcement of environmental protection laws like the Clean Water Act (CWA).
- Documented a 98% median increase in violations of the CWA during the Trump administration and a 60% reduction in EPA penalties.
- Created “A People’s EPA” (APE), a public history website of the agency and home for the over 150 original interviews from EPA employees.
- Published two influential web monitoring projects: the “Access Denied” report and “Federal Environmental Web Tracker” database of changes.
- Transitioned to a new fiscal sponsor, Multiplier, and brought in our first-ever development director to help maintain our financial sustainability.