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Report on the Environment

Frequent Questions

How often is the ROE updated?

EPA anticipates that the indicators comprising the main content of the ROE will be updated with new data points semi-annually.  Depending on data availability, new indicators may also be added to the ROE website annually.  Full paper versions of the ROE and ROE Highlights Document are anticipated to be released about every four-six years.

What is the purpose of the ROE?

The Report on the Environment program began with the purpose of answering questions of fundamental importance to EPA’s mission to protect the environment and human health, such as, “What are the trends in outdoor air quality and their effects on human health and the environment?” and “What are the trends in the condition of drinking water and their effects on human health?”  In compiling the available data sets, it became clear that we couldn’t fully answer many of these questions with available data ... there were many holes in the puzzle.  So the ROE’s mission became one of compiling the best available information that helps answer the questions and documenting where data gaps prevent these important questions from being answered. 

This is important because EPA and the American public must be able to track what’s happening in the environment and human health to know whether current efforts to tackle environmental challenges are working, and to be alert to new challenges that need our attention and action.  The ROE provides a place for citizens and EPA to track these changes.  With better information, we can make better decisions to protect human health and the environment.

How were the ROE questions selected?

EPA convened a group of staff members from across the Agency to develop a set of questions that capture the health and environmental issues important to EPA.  Once drafted, the set of questions was reviewed and approved by senior management from across the Agency to be included in the ROE. The ROE questions can be found within the 5 main topics (air, water, land, human exposure and health, and ecological condition).

Where does the data in the ROE come from?

The numerical values for the indicators presented in the ROE were calculated from many different data sources from federal and state agencies and non-government organizations including USGS, NOAA, and NASA, and non-governmental organizations, such as NatureServe.  Each of the indicators includes a “Data Sources” section describing specifically where the data came from. 

Is the ROE a report card on the environment?

The ROE is NOT a 'report card' on the state on the environment, rather it provides answers to the questions asked in the report. In addition to the list of criteria above, the indicators:

  • Rely on actual measurements of environmental and human health conditions over time.
  • Meet a set of standards, which include quality, accuracy, relevance, and comparability.
  • Were reviewed by an independent scientific panel to ensure that they meet these standards
  • Are national (or in some cases regional) in coverage. They do not describe trends or conditions of a specific locale.
  • Come from many governmental and nongovernmental organizations, which collect data over different periods and for varying purposes.
  • Can only partially answer the key questions.

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