Panel: Innovative Use of Data in Environmental Policy Study
(Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Policy)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row E (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Jiaqi Liang, University of Illinois, Chicago
Panel Chair:  Federica Fusi, University of Illinois, Chicago
Discussant:  Shan Zhou, Michigan Technological University

Open data initiatives, information disclosure, and better measurements contribute to informed policymaking and answering important policy questions. Innovative use of data, ultimately, helps enhance government’s accountability and citizens’ well-being. Echoing the theme of the 2019 Fall Research Conference, the four papers in this panel revolve around innovatively using diverse forms of data in studying environmental policy and solving environmental problems. Liang and Zhang’s paper focuses on open data, digital exclusion, and equity in environmental policy implementation. Using the empirical case of the Clean Air Act, they examine whether the adoption of open data portals linking community’s demographic-socioeconomic and environmental information increases the level of government’s regulatory enforcement outputs for less affluent and minority communities, and whether such an effect is weakened by the digital exclusion confronted by those vulnerable populations. Li’s paper asks whether information disclosure crowds out or crowds in regulatory activities in the environmental area. Specifically, this paper explores whether the coverage expansion in Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program substitutes or complements state governments’ regulatory activities under the national legislations of air, water, and solid waste pollution control. Connecting environmental quality, cognitive health, and academic performance, Austin’s paper uses satellite-based data to investigate how the reduced diesel emissions resulting from 26,000 school bus engine retrofits or replacements across the nation affect ambient air quality and student test scores. This paper further compares the cost of these engine retrofits to the monetized benefits of the observed academic performance improvements. Olson’s paper uses GIS mapping of noise pollution to investigate the impact of this pollution on education outcomes and if this pollution is disproportionately collocated with minority student populations. Further, this paper explores the policy implications of these findings through the perspective of environmental justice.

This panel is diverse in terms of the authors contributing research insights. It includes two faculty members and multiple doctoral students, all from different institutions. There is also diversity in terms of gender and race/ethnicity.

When Open Data Encounter Digital Exclusion: Assessing the Impacts on Environmental Equity
Jiaqi Liang, University of Illinois, Chicago and Fengxiu Zhang, Arizona State University