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EPA's Report on the Environment: External Review Draft



Basic Information

What is the ROE?

To accomplish its mission, EPA must pay close attention to trends in the condition of the nation's air, water, and land, and to associated trends in human exposure and health, the condition of ecological systems, and sustainability. The ROE compiles, in one place, the most reliable indicators currently available to help answer 24 questions that EPA believes are of critical importance to its mission and the nation's environment. The ROE focuses on trends within the United States, even though those trends might be affected by sources and conditions outside U.S. borders. Data on environmental trends:

  • Allow EPA and the public to assess whether the Agency is succeeding in its overall mission to protect human health and the environment.
  • Provide valuable input to EPA in developing its strategic outlook and priorities.

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What's in the ROE?

This version of the ROE presents 86 indicators, all of which were peer-reviewed to meet high standards for accuracy, representativeness, and reliability. The indicators are supported by data gathered from federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations. Each indicator comprises:

  • A graphic showing the trend in indicator data over time, or a national baseline when data are not yet available to show a trend. Note: In the ROE, the word “trend” simply means the direction of change, and does not imply statistical significance.
  • Text describing:
    • What the indicator covers.
    • What the data show.
    • Any limitations that generate uncertainty in the trend characterized by the indicator.
    • Data sources and references.
  • Technical documentation.

The ROE does not propose actions to reduce data limitations or fill gaps, nor does it analyze the costs and benefits of doing so.

EPA updates the ROE and its component indicators annually so that the latest information on environmental status and trends is available to EPA, external scientists, and interested members of the public. EPA adds new indicators to better answer the ROE questions as suitable data become available from federal, state, and non-governmental organizations.

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What are the “ROE questions”?

EPA has identified 24 areas where trend information is critical for the Agency to stay adequately informed about the condition of the environment. In the ROE, these areas are listed as questions. The ROE presents indicators that help EPA address these questions:

Air

Water

Land

Human Exposure and Health

Ecological Condition

Sustainability

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What is an ROE indicator?

ROE indicators are simple measures that track the state of the environment and human health over time. They are based primarily on measurements of physical or biological conditions within a clearly defined geographic area.

To maintain a high level of scientific integrity and consistency among the indicators used in the ROE, EPA established an explicit definition and six criteria for ROE indicators. The criteria are based in part on EPA's Information Quality Guidelines, which cover important information that EPA provides to the public. All ROE indicators were peer-reviewed against this definition and criteria to ensure that they are useful, objective, transparent, and scientifically reliable.

Indicator Definition and Criteria

Indicator Definition: An ROE indicator is a numerical value derived from actual measurements* of a driver, stressor, state or ambient condition, exposure, or human health or ecological condition over a specified geographic domain, whose trends over time represent or draw attention to underlying trends in the condition of the environment.

Indicator Criteria:

  • The indicator is useful. It answers (or makes an important contribution to answering) a question in the ROE.
  • The indicator is objective. It is developed and presented in an accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased manner.
  • The indicator is transparent and reproducible. The specific data used and the specific assumptions, analytic methods, and statistical procedures employed are clearly stated.
  • The underlying data are characterized by sound collection methodologies, data management systems to protect their integrity, and quality assurance procedures.
  • Data are available to describe changes or trends, and the latest available data are timely.
  • The data are comparable across time and space, and representative of the target population. Trends depicted in this indicator accurately represent the underlying trends in the target population.

*There is some flexibility in this criterion. For example, the air emissions indicators, solid waste indicator, and sustainability indicators have several components that are based on estimation or partial estimation methodologies applied to the best available data.

The ROE excludes:

  • Administrative indicators such as permits issued, regulations promulgated, and enforcement actions undertaken.
  • Indicators based on results predicted by environmental fate and transport models or predicted risks to people or ecological systems.
  • One-time studies unless they serve as baselines for future trends that can be tracked over time.

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How do ROE indicators relate to environmental issues of concern to EPA?

EPA uses a Sustainability Framework to show how ROE indicators relate to some of the key issues of concern to EPA. The framework has been applied to six issues of concern to EPA, corresponding to priorities reflected in the Agency's Strategic Plan. For each issue, the ROE:

  • Gives an overview of how the issue fits into the sustainability framework.
  • Identifies the key system attributes (activities, sources, effects, etc.) of each issue and shows how they are interrelated.
  • Shows which ROE indicators are relevant to these issues.

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What's new in the ROE?

First published in 2003, the ROE was substantially revised in 2008 and 2014. The 2014 ROE, published exclusively on the Web, includes six new indicators and many new features:

  • Sustainability: In response to growing U.S. and international concern, Sustainability has been added as a new ROE theme with national-level indicators.
  • Conceptual framework: The ROE uses a conceptual framework and associated diagrams to show how ROE indicators relate to particular issues of concern to EPA, and how these issues and the ROE themes relate to each other in the context of sustainability.
  • Interactive graphing: Interactive tools allow you to customize graphical displays and view certain indicators in zoomable map form.
  • Statistical information: ROE 2014 presents statistical information for indicators where such information is readily available.
  • Where you live: Here you can explore environmental trends and related information relevant to where you live.
  • What you can do: Visit this new section to learn what you can do to help protect the environment and your health, and foster a sustainable future.

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