Announcing "A People's EPA"; on the Past and Present of America's Premier Environmental Regulator

Christopher Sellers's picture
Online Digital Resources
December 31, 2020
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Public Policy, Political History / Studies


The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) launches a new collaborative digital project, A People’s EPA (APE). Since December 1970, Congress has charged the Environmental Protection Agency with implementing laws that protect us from air pollution, dirty water, and hazardous waste. Launching 50 years after the EPA’s establishment, A People’s EPA seeks to 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.

A People’s EPA’s website gives students, teachers, 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. 

A People's EPA is a collaborative project, and we invite volunteer efforts of any historians who wish to contribute to its themes, content, and development (please write us by email).  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website will house EDGI’s interviews with EPA officials, long-term data on enforcement and budget at the EPA, curated historical documents and key reports, as well as historical narratives, timelines, and policy analysis.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: 

Contact Info: 

Leif Fredrickson, Interview Curator, Environmental Data and Governance Initiative; Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Montana-Missoula

Chris Sellers, Policy Monitoring and Interviewing Working Group, Environmental Data and Governance Initiative; Professor of History, Stony Brook University