The report How Gaps and Disparities in EPA Data Undermine Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tools examines gaps and disparities in the data the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to track violations and enforce compliance of the Clean Water, Clean Air, Resource Conservation and Recovery, and Safe Drinking Water Acts (CWA, CAA, RCRA, SDWA). Open and replicable analytical methods were used to make counts of missing data in these major programs.
Key findings include:
- Over 19,000 facilities regulated under foundational environmental protection laws are missing basic information such as their latitude and longitude. Nearly all — 19,657 out of 19,675 (99.9%) — of these are SDWA-regulated facilities.
- Data needed for basic EJ assessments, such as the percent minority population surrounding a facility or the Census block it resides in, is missing for 14% of the facilities in EPA’s most public-facing database. This increases to 83% of facilities regulated under SDWA.
- Nationally, the typical facility regulated under each of these environmental protection laws is missing…
- 86% of CWA-specific information
- 86% of RCRA-specific information
- 71% of CAA-specific information
- 40% of SDWA-specific information
- Facilities in majority-minority communities have somewhat worse data quality scores than facilities in majority-white communities, for all acts except SDWA.
- Data missingness is substantially worse for facilities in areas already screened by EPA to be of particular concern for environmental injustices and majority-minority areas when looking at Clean Water Act inspections in particular.
- 78% of all facilities regulated under the CWA are missing inspection counts, but only 75% of facilities in majority white areas, rising to 83% of facilities in majority-minority areas
- Western states including Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada are much worse when it comes to inspection data completeness for facilities in majority-minority communities
How Data Gaps and Disparities Undermine EPA's Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tools
Author(s): Eric Nost, Sara Wylie, Olivia Chang, Olin College PInT, Kelsey Breseman, Steve Hansen, Lourdes Vera, and EDGI
Publication Date: September 28, 2022
Preferred Citation: “How Gaps and Disparities in EPA Data Undermine Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tools,” (Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, September 28, 2022)