Research

Meet one of our network's research staff, Elizabeth Ridlington.
Our work to protect clean air, clean water and open spaces always starts with research. The staff of our network examine problems and evaluate policies through hard-hitting reports, then use those reports to earn media coverage and build support for meaningful solutions.
Oil on Santa Barbara beach / U.S. Coast Guard

On May 19, 2015, a rupture in an onshore pipeline transporting oil from drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel to onshore refineries spilled 120,000 gallons of crude oil west of Santa Barbara, California. The spill closed two state beaches for months and killed nearly 100 marine mammals and more than 200 birds. 

About three years later, South Carolina state Sen. Chip Campsen was quoted in a Washington Post story, saying, “For many Republicans, Trump’s offshore drilling plan and beaches don’t mix. People need to understand that if you are going to have offshore drilling, you have to industrialize a huge portion of your coast.”

For Elizabeth Ridlington, senior policy analyst for our research partner Frontier Group, who lives in California, the Santa Barbara spill came to mind, and inspired her next report for Environment America Research & Policy Center, “Offshore Drilling, Onshore Damage: Broken Pipelines, Dirty Refineries and the Pollution Impacts of Energy Infrastructure.” Elizabeth studied the potential environmental damages of industrial infrastructure created for offshore drilling. She found that pipelines running from rigs to inland processing plants could threaten estuary water quality, increase the likelihood of oil spills, and pollute drinking water and land. Environment America Research & Policy Center released the report nationwide.

Advocates for Environment America and our state affiliates then used the report in states up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to call for bans or restrictions of drilling off their shores. In states such as Florida, North Carolina and Massachusetts, it earned media attention, and was released just in time for the Virginia General Assembly to pass a ban of offshore drilling. 

A news event in Georgia to call for a ban on offshore drilling. / Erik Voss

This is what Elizabeth does. She has authored more than 50 reports, focusing primarily on global warming and clean vehicles. Her 2018 report for Environment America Research & Policy Center, “Trouble in the Air,” found that millions of Americans regularly breathe air polluted by smog and particulate pollution, and earned coverage in The Washington Post, The Atlantic and National Public Radio. 

Elizabeth, like all of the researchers who work with our network, spends anywhere from three months to a year to take a report from start to finish. She starts by finding and analyzing data, then deduces what all of the data means, then creates infographics and data visualizations, spelling it out in a way that will be digestible to the public. Finally, she develops policy recommendations that our leaders can take to solve the problems that she found. But her work doesn’t end there. With each report, Elizabeth reaches out to the media, pitching reporters on the report, showcasing what the results could mean for the public and future policy. She also writes accompanying materials such as blog posts to highlight how her report has real-world implications.

Meet the people on our team