Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) document the potential environmental and public health effects of large-scale development projects. Historically, EIAs are produced by industry consultants and evaluated by regulatory agencies, in a process that’s largely devoid of perspectives from affected communities. But this is changing: novel uses of data and digital platforms by concerned citizen groups, such as data transparency projects, participatory mapping platforms, and funding of independent impact analysis, are increasing capacity for public scrutiny of EIAs. Such projects are expanding public discourse by drawing out concerns for equity, democracy, and community values.
In this New Tools presentation, Kirk Jalbert explores these relationships through the story of communities grappling with natural gas liquids pipelines at different stages of development in Pennsylvania. Opposition to pipelines has moved to the forefront of anti-extraction movements due to their implications for locking regions into long-term energy development dependencies.
Comprehensive impact analysis data on proposed pipeline routes and their likely impacts are rarely provided to the public. However, in a number of groundbreaking cases, advocacy groups have partnered with capacity building organizations to discover and publicly analyze sources of data to produce alternative EIAs. These efforts have enabled narratives countering claims of pipeline safety and necessity, thus reshaping dynamics of power between concerned citizen groups, regulatory agencies, and industry.