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Law and Policy

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How do laws, regulations, policies, and community science affect each other? Community-collected data has the power to prompt local, state, or federal action by alerting government agencies to an issue. Failures and gaps at the regulatory level are often what leads communities to do their own environmental monitoring and advocacy work. At the same time, laws will affect how community scientists can collect their data for maximum potential impact.

Some subjects that you might see included here in the future:

  • How can community-sourced data be used to impact or enforce regulations at the local, tribal, state, or federal level?
  • What can community members do to improve their chances of having impact through legal channels?
  • How do laws and agencies enable or impair the ability of communities to collect and contribute data?

This page is a place to collect and organize resources on law and policy, and their relationships with community-led science. Visit the law-and-policy tag page to see the latest community posts about law and policy on Public Lab, and get updates on this topic by following:

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What other resources related to law and policy would be helpful to collect here? Please edit this wiki!

Questions on law and policy

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Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What are statute of limitations? @amocorro 5 months ago 2
What are toxic torts? @amocorro 5 months ago 1
Are there examples where environmental concerns were addressed as a result of people filing complaints (or suspected permit violations)? @stevie over 1 year ago 7
What constitutes transit violations in Wisconsin? @kamau19 over 2 years ago 2
What constitutes an air quality violation in Wisconsin? @stevie over 2 years ago 3
Has odor ever been used against an industry in court? @stevie almost 3 years ago 4
What are good resources, or things look look for, in reviewing environmental permits? @stevie over 3 years ago 2
What is a good way to track vehicular traffic? @stevie over 3 years ago 14
How do I find out who is responsible for maintaining the roadway by my house? @stevie over 3 years ago 3
How are gravel and asphalt companies regulated? @stevie over 3 years ago 1
What type of permits are required for gravel and asphalt processing facilities? @stevie over 3 years ago 1
Do the same regulations that apply to drones apply to balloon mapping? @Morgan over 3 years ago 3
How do you find industrial WPDES permit details? @gretchengehrke almost 4 years ago 2
Does your state have air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke almost 4 years ago 0
Does Pennsylvania have air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke almost 4 years ago 1
Are there occupational exposure rules limiting exposure to hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke almost 4 years ago 1
Are there air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide? @gretchengehrke almost 4 years ago 1
Looking for open data resources to track public permitting processes. @kgradow1 almost 4 years ago 1
Where can I find models for community-university data co-ownership? @nshapiro about 4 years ago 18
Are there any exemptions under the NPDES? @stevie over 4 years ago 5
What types of NPDES permits are there? @stevie over 4 years ago 3
How do environmental monitoring methods become recognized or official by US regulatory agencies? @stevie almost 5 years ago 4
How can I find out what environmental monitoring methods are recognized by regulatory agencies? @stevie almost 5 years ago 2
Who can vouch for, or interpret, evidence in court, and how is it weighed? @warren almost 5 years ago 2
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Activities related to law and policy

Activities on Public Lab that have been tagged with law-and-policy will appear here

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Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Community-sourced data and legal issues

Each of us has our own way of thinking about and doing community science. The posts linked below describe an approach to community science from the perspective of @lenagd, an attorney with extensive experience in environmental law. Within the posts you’ll find:

A three-step approach to using community-sourced data in the legal system:

Step 1. Identifying the problem: how it should work + common legal obstacles
Step 2. Gathering the evidence: how it should work + common legal obstacles
Step 3. Turning evidence into action: how it should work + common legal obstacles

You can find the full posts on “Citizen Science Investigations: aka 'Common Legal Issues when using Community Sourced Data'” here:

Part 1: How it should work
Part 2: Why it doesn’t always work


The posts below include discussions and information on how community-collected data can become evidence in a legal case.

Regulations within topic areas on Public Lab

Much of the resources and activity on the Public Lab website are organized by Topic areas--for example, air quality, water quality, and land use. On each Topic’s wiki page (see an example linked below), we’re hoping to include background on what laws and regulations exist and where gaps are, plus examples and stories of how community science can interact with the regulatory world. These sections could cover:

1. Regulations related to the Topic

  • Federal level regulations (e.g., set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US)
  • How to find other regulations that may exist at your state level
  • What’s currently hot in the regulatory world

2. Examples and stories of what community-collected data can do with regulations in this Topic area

  • Stimulate government investigation
  • Be used directly by agencies in their assessment
  • Be used in lawsuits

We hope that the stories will demonstrate the power of local community knowledge and expertise and inspire others who are seeking to address an environmental concern.

If you have ideas, examples, or stories to share, please edit this wiki or consider posting a research note!

Share a research note

Indoor air quality

Regulations on indoor air quality: check out this example of what Topic pages could include on federal and state regulations and policies.

Air quality (outdoor)

Regulations and policy on ambient air quality


Regulations and policy on microplastics

Further reading and resources