The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Climate Change” website homepage. The green box highlights a paragraph added in August 2021 about the agency’s commitment to environmental justice and forthcoming related resources..
By EDGI’s Website Monitoring Team
Welcome! This post is part of the EDGI Website Monitoring Team’s “Highlights from the Change Log” blog series. The purpose of this series is to call attention to interesting changes we have observed in the language used on, or access to, federal websites. We want to share these changes to encourage public engagement with and discussion of their significance, as well as understanding of the ephemeral nature of website information. Today’s changes occurred on August 12, 2021, on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change website, www.epa.gov/climate-change.
On August 12, 2021, the EPA published extensive additions of at least 38 webpages to its “Climate Change” website, www.epa.gov/climate-change. These additions include webpages regarding EPA’s activities addressing climate change, from its various partnership initiatives to regulatory actions. The EPA also created a webpage explaining the purpose of its Climate Change website, to serve “as a resource to help individuals, businesses, communities, and state, local, and tribal governments access timely and accurate information” about climate change. The “Climate Change” website homepage was revamped as well, replete with new headers, new links (though removing links to external resources like NASA’s “Climate Change” website), and a paragraph about critical future resources:
EPA is committed to advancing the goals of environmental justice for all Americans, including those historically marginalized, overburdened, underserved, and living with the legacy of structural racism. Additional web content about climate change and environmental justice is currently under development.
Why we think it’s interesting:
This is the first expansion of EPA’s new “Climate Change” website since the new website homepage had been published five months earlier, on March 19, 2021, just nine days after President Biden’s nominee to be the new EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, was confirmed by the Senate.
We’ve been waiting with bated breath for these additions, for the return of substantive climate change information the Trump EPA shuttered from the public more than four years ago, on April 28, 2017. The return of a climate change homepage in March 2021 was a hopeful sign, but these website additions in August 2021 are the first publicly available informational resources in the new EPA “Climate Change” website.
As we begin to explore the new website and compare it to its Obama-era EPA Climate Change website (stay tuned for an analysis in weeks to come), the first thing that jumped out at us was the new statement regarding EPA’s commitment to environmental justice and notification of climate justice resources under development. First, it is highly unlikely the term “structural racism” would have been included in any official federal language under the Trump administration. The Biden administration, on the other hand, has seven stated priorities, two of which are Climate Change and Racial Equity. In his first memo to EPA staff, Michael Regan named EPA’s goal to “take on the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, restore the role of science, protect public health, and rebuild stronger than before.” There is now evidence of these priorities on EPA’s website. Highlighting environmental justice on EPA’s “Climate Change” homepage is an essential first step to teaching people about the disproportionate impacts of climate change on overburdened and underrepresented communities, which is critical for an understanding of the urgency of the climate crisis. We look forward to the informational resources EPA is currently developing on this issue.
The second thing that jumped out at us is that the EPA is sharing with the public its goals for the website, explaining why the EPA has devoted time and money to creating these resources and what impacts it hopes these climate change informational resources will have. Describing the purpose of and objectives for a website is incredibly rare. In fact, in nearly five years of monitoring websites, we haven’t seen this sort of communication on anything that isn’t concerning a specific regulation (and it is rare at that). This transparency is welcome and needed. It is a gesture toward accountability by creating an opening for public feedback about the information provided and whether it is achieving EPA’s objectives. The “Contact Us” link that is specific to the “Climate Change” website provides a forum for this feedback, to which we are hopeful the EPA will respond.
At first glance, we are excited about this new website and look forward to exploring it more. Please join us in doing so!