Environmental Working Group
Environmental Working Group
The Environmental Working Group is a public interest research group that monitors public agencies and public policies on topics relating to environmental and social justice. EWG publicizes its findings in research reports that emphasize both national and local implications of federal laws and activities. These research reports are based on analysis of public databases, often obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. In operation since 1993, EWG is a nonprofit organization funded by grants from private foundations. EWG is based in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, California, and is associated with the Tides Center of San Francisco. The organization performs its research both independently and in collaboration with other public interest research groups such as the Sierra Club and the Surface Transportation Policy Project (a nonprofit coalition focusing on social and environmental quality in transportation policy).
EWG specializes in analyzing large computer databases maintained by government agencies, such as the Toxic Release Inventory database maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency to record spills of toxic chemicals into the air or water, or the Regulatory Analysis Management System, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers for internal tracking of permits granted for filling and draining wetlands . Because many of these data sources are capable of exposing actions or policies embarrassing to public agencies, EWG has often obtained data by using the Freedom of Information Act, which legally enforces public release of data belonging to the public domain. Many of the databases researched by EWG have never been thoroughly analyzed before, even by the agency collecting the data. EWG is unusual in working with primary data—going directly to the original database—rather than basing its research on secondary sources, anecdotal information, or interviews.
Research findings are published both in print and electronically on the Internet. Electronic publishing allows immediate and inexpensive distribution of reports that concern issues of current interest. EWG is a prolific source of information, producing extensive, detailed reports, often at a rate of more than one a month. Among the environmental topics on which the EWG has reported are drinking water quality , wetland protection and destruction, and the impacts of agricultural pesticides on both farm workers and consumers. Social justice and policy issues that EWG has researched include campaign finance reform, inequalities and inefficiency in farm subsidy programs, and threats to public health and the environment from medical waste . For each general topic, EWG usually publishes a series of articles ranging from the nature and impacts of a federal law to what individuals can do about the current problem. Also included with research reports are state-by-state and county summaries of statistics , which provide details of local implications of the general policy issues.
[Mary Ann Cunningham Ph.D. ]
Cook, K. A., and A. Art. City Slickers: Farm Subsidy Recipients in America's Big Cities. Washington, DC: Environmental Working Group, 1995.
Environmental Working Group. Dishonorable Discharge: Toxic Pollution of America's Waters. Washington, DC: Environmental Working Group, 1996.