Increasing Transparency through Improved Data Access

By Jessie Johnson

In college I worked with community groups to address local agriculture and food safety issues. During that time, I learned how many people in the community didn’t really understand these issues or what to do about them. I started to think about transparency and the importance of community involvement and education. I am thrilled to now be a part of the team working on the Enforcement and Compliance History Online tool, known as ECHO. This tool allows users to search facilities that are in non-compliance with environmental laws and helps make EPA enforcement efforts and companies’ actions more transparent for the general public.

Each year the ECHO team hears from users around the country about enhancements they would like to see. We have been working hard to create, promote, and improve the highlighted tools in the ECHO system and build new, useful tools. Some of our notable improvements include:

 2015 Highlights

  • Users now have a “Use My Location” feature on their mobile devices to find facilities within a three-mile radius.
  • When users search by case name, defendant name or facility name on the enforcement case search, they can choose to search for exact matches or names that begin with a search term.
  • An ECHO tool guide provides users with tips about tools for various analyses.
  • Pesticide Worker Protection dashboard provides a summary of enforcement and compliance aimed to reduce risk of pesticide poisoning and injury.
  • Online tutorials are available for clean water effluent charts, detailed facility reports, and the error reporting feature.

2016 Plans

I am also excited to share what’s in store for 2016. We will be focusing on improving ECHO tools and increasing public involvement. When I joined EPA, I came with a personal goal to help others get involved with knowing their environmental community and reporting on noncompliance of environmental laws. I am personally looking forward to seeing more public users and feedback so we can improve our enforcement efforts. But as a team, we have a lot of exciting projects for 2016 to help make ECHO more useful and informative for everyone.

  • Users will be able to search for criminal enforcement cases as well as the current opportunity to search civil enforcement cases.
  • Enhanced search results and mapping capabilities.
  • Water quality mapping.
  • Frequent tutorials and trainings for both public and government users.

After a great 2015 of modernizing ECHO I am looking forward to 2016!

Jessie Johnson is new to EPA as a program analyst with the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. She specializes in GIS technology and will be working to help improve the enforcement maps and training others in map analysis and has a particular interest in how GIS mapping can help improve enforcement and management efforts.

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