Just one week into Biden’s presidency, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced its intent to review the effectiveness of scientific integrity policies across federal agencies, stating that, “scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations.” The OSTP review provides an opportunity to address the policy gaps in the governance of public information found on the websites of federal agencies, an issue that the website monitoring team of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative has been tracking since the beginning of the Trump presidency.
Today, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) releases Access Denied: Federal Web Governance Under the Trump Administration. The report examines the Trump administration’s management of federal websites related to environmental regulation and makes recommendations for the Biden administration moving forward. Currently, there are few policies governing website content.
On March 26, 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a policy memo suspending pollution monitoring requirements for industries that claim to have been impacted by COVID-19. Since then, as part of EDGI’s ongoing Environmental Enforcement Watch (EEW) project, we have conducted original data science research using EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online ECHO database to investigate the effects of this policy on facility reporting of environmental data and compliance with environmental protection laws.
Results show that although few facilities have claimed the COVID exemption, a significant proportion of facilities are still failing to report. This reflects longer-term trends in and issues with both industry non-compliance and EPA non-enforcement. We cannot afford a return to “normal”. Non-compliance with the nations environmental protection laws is already rampant – as high as 70% of facilities under some regulatory programs.