A new EPA website providing content about energy policy for state, local, and tribal governments has replaced a previous website, which hosted both climate and energy resources. Large portions of climate resources that were formerly found on the previous website have not been returned, and thus have ultimately been removed from the current EPA website. Graphic: EDGI / EPA

By Toly Rinberg
20 October 2017

(EDGI) – In the first example of returned content since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began overhauling its climate change website on 28 April 2017, a new website providing content about energy policy for state, local and tribal governments has replaced a previous website, which hosted both climate and energy resources. Large portions of climate resources that were formerly found on the previous website have not been returned, and thus have ultimately been removed from the current EPA website (though many of these resources can still be found in the January 19 snapshot of the EPA website). The new website launch was done without an accompanying news release and the decision not to include particular climate resources was not explained.

It’s been nearly half a year since the EPA’s website overhaul began. Certain subdomains, like “epa.gov/climatechange” and “epa.gov/climate-impacts”, have remained removed and continue to redirect to a notice page, which states that the EPA website is being updated “to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.”

Which Web resources are missing?

As detailed in our access assessment report, the previous 380-webpage site [1], removed during the start of the EPA’s website overhaul on April 28, was titled “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments” and hosted at the subdomain “epa.gov/statelocalclimate”. This site described a support program offering assistance to states, municipalities, and tribal governments around energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate change policy. The website remains archived on the EPA’s January 19 snapshot, but, as it does not appear on the current version of the EPA’s website and since previous URLs now redirect to the new website’s main page, access to its contents has been significantly reduced.

The new website—which is only 175 webpages [1] and is titled “Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments” and hosted at the subdomain “epa.gov/statelocalenergy”—was launched in late July [2] and focuses only on energy policy and resources. While some webpages were moved from the previous website to the new one, others were excluded from the new website entirely, and others still were moved, but altered significantly. The “/statelocalclimate” website URLs now all redirect to the new website’s “epa.gov/statelocalenergy” main page URL. This makes it difficult for users to find the appropriate resources, even if a particular previous webpage was moved to the new website.

Unlike the previous website, the new website’s main page does not link to the “State Climate Action Framework”, “Local Climate Action Framework”, “Climate Showcase Communities”, and “Tribes & Climate Change Action” pages, which no longer have live counterparts on the new website. As one representative example, the “Climate Change Risks and State Adaptation” page, which does not appear on the new website, had an “Examples of State-wide Adaptation Strategies” section aggregating and linking numerous climate resources. In fact, the new website’s main page makes no mention of “climate”, unlike the previous main page, which contained the word “climate” 17 times within the body of the page. In upcoming posts, we will more comprehensively depict how the usage of terms like “climate” has changed across the entire subdomain, what pages are missing, and which pages are available but are no longer linked to.

Certain Web resources, such as all previous Web “Tools”, including the AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool (AVERT), appear to have been entirely moved from the “/statelocalclimate” to the “/statelocalenergy” subdomain. Some energy policy information was also moved to the new website. For example, the “Assessing the Multiple Benefits of Clean Energy: A Resource for States” page was moved, with very few changes, from the “/statelocalclimate” to the “/statelocalenergy” subdomain.

Changes across EPA.gov

A similar type of change to the EPA website occurred when the Clean Water Rule website was removed and a new website focusing on the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule was launched. The previous website provided information and resources about clean water and the Clean Water Rule, while the new website focuses solely on explaining the history of the definition of WOTUS and the rulemaking process. The previous subdomain, “epa.gov/cleanwaterrule”, redirects to the new website’s main page URL, “epa.gov/wotus-rule”. In this case, while the EPA did make a statement about the website launch, access to clean water Web resources were significantly reduced.

The continued removal of Web content makes it more difficult for the public and for state, local, and tribal governments to access climate-related Web resources. Moreover, without clear notice from the EPA explaining its decision to remove information and resources, website users may be confused as to why the removals were necessary: was the removed content inaccurate or is there some other kind of justified change in priority or policy? This lack of transparency in the EPA’s website overhaul process harms the public’s understanding of our government’s operations and is a concerning indicator for the possible future mishandling of Web resources to come.

References

[1] See EDGI assessment of “/statelocalclimate” and “/statelocalenergy” subdomain URLs

[2] Redirect established between July 24, 8:08 AM ET and July 27, 7:32 AM ET, according to EDGI’s website monitoring software.

EPA’s Website Overhaul Continues: Climate Resources Left Out of the Update to the “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments” Website


By Lisa Friedman
20 October 2017

WASHINGTON (The New York Times) – The Environmental Protection Agency has removed dozens of online resources dedicated to helping local governments address climate change, part of an apparent effort by the agency to play down the threat of global warming.

A new analysis made public on Friday found that an E.P.A. website has been scrubbed of scores of links to materials to help local officials prepare for a world of rising temperatures and more severe storms.

The site, previously the E.P.A.’s “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments” has been renamed “Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments.” About 15 mentions of the words “climate change” have been removed from the main page alone, the study found.

Among the now-missing pages are those detailing the risks of climate change and the different approaches states are taking to curb emissions. Also edited out were examples of statewide plans to adapt to weather extremes.

An E.P.A. spokesman said the original pages have been archived and remain available by searching through the agency’s web archive, a link to which is at the top of its energy resources page.

The analysis, from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which monitors changes to federal environmental agency websites, described the amount of removed data as “substantial.” The energy resources website is the first site to which the E.P.A. has returned a large portion of material since pages dealing with climate science were removed from public view on April 28.

In the interim, a notice said “this page is being updated” and added that the site would be changed to reflect the agency’s priorities under the Trump administration. When material was restored with changes in late July, the report said, the site had been cut to 175 pages from about 380.

“I think it’s very alarming” said Adam Parris, who leads the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay in New York. “These are not the kind of resources that are just basic climate science. These are the kind of resources it has taken years to develop across the federal family.”

The report comes on the heels of a four-year blueprint of priorities the E.P.A. issued that does not include climate change. The 38-page draft strategic plan, issued for public comment this month, does not use the phrase. [more]

E.P.A. Scrubs a Climate Website of ‘Climate Change’

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