Critical Data Engagements & Public EIAs

Title: Critical Data Engagements & Public Environmental Impact Assessments of Energy Infrastructure Projects

Abstract: 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 reliant on desktop analysis and field-based observations, but often devoid of perspectives from affected communities. But this is changing: concerned citizen groups are increasingly executing data transparency projects, participatory mapping efforts, and funding of independent impact analysis to increase capacity for public scrutiny of EIAs. Such projects are expanding public discourse by drawing out concerns for equity, democracy, community values, and environmental sustainability. 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 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 and technical consultants to discover and analyze sources of data to produce alternative EIAs. These efforts have enabled new narratives countering claims of pipeline safety and necessity, thus reshaping dynamics of power between concerned citizen groups, regulatory agencies, and industry.

Kirk Jalbert

Kirk Jalbert

Biography: Kirk Jalbert is an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society with a joint appointment in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at ASU. His research addresses how public engagements with environmental science and governance are shaped by the use of information technologies in energy justice movements. He focuses on understanding the unique informatics practices and knowledge infrastructures that emerge in these spaces. Prior to joining ASU, Jalbert worked in the nonprofit sector, facilitating data gathering and transparency projects in partnership with concerned citizen groups making sense of their relationships with the energy industry, particularly in the context of debates about the impacts of shale gas extraction and proposed pipeline projects. His recent edited volume, ExtrACTION: Impacts, Engagements and Alternative Futures, examines resistance to resource extraction from a critical ethnographic perspective, exploring why and how resistance movements seek to change extraction policies.