What happens when a community feels that the standards imposed by state and federal laws are insufficient to protect its health and environment? Or when the responsible government agencies lack the funding, competency, or political will for full enforcement of the law? One of the greatest hurdles facing citizen environmental advocates in these situations is a lack of access to environmental monitoring data. All routes available for policing industry—whether it be rallying community support for protest, petitioning a government agency for enforcement action, or bringing a citizen suit—require, as a first step, an understanding of whether and what pollution has been released. This article looks at a few examples of how citizen organizing, combined with changes in technology, have successfully empowered communities to take environmental monitoring and enforcement of the mining industry into their own hands.
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