Blog

Since Biden’s Inauguration, Environmental Enforcement Has New Place of Prominence on the EPA’s Homepage

Beginning January 25th, 2021, EPA’s top webpage epa.gov includes a clickable black and yellow image to report environmental violations

Welcome! This post is part of the EDGI Website Monitoring Team’s “Change of the Week” blog series. The purpose of this series is to highlight 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. This change occurred on January 25, 2021 on epa.gov, the top page of the EPA’s website.

What happened: 

On January 25, 2021, an addition was made to  epa.gov, the top page of the EPA’s website, to include a clickable yellow and black badge image, complete with eagle and text overlaying the image stating “EPA” and “Report Environmental Violations”:

Clicking on the image, located alongside social media share links in the upper right, takes users to the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO)  Report Environmental Violations webpage where they are directed as follows: 

“Use this page to report what appears to you as a possible violation of environmental laws and regulations. Information you submit will be forwarded to EPA environmental enforcement personnel or to the appropriate regulatory authority.”

Why we think it is interesting: 

1) The addition of this image is an early and strong indicator that the Biden-Harris administration is placing a high priority on addressing environmental violations. Posting a publicly-targeted ‘take action’ link on the top page of a federal agency’s website is not common practice. 

Check out EDGI’s “Sheep in the Closet” report for an indepth look at how, in sharp contrast, enforcement plummeted under the Trump administration by 2 years into his term. 

2) With President Biden’s executive order directing each federal agency to address climate change and environmental justice, there could well be more updates related to environmental violation reporting across federal websites beyond EPA sometime in the future.

3) While the black and yellow alert image certainly stands out from the other graphic elements on the EPA’s top page, the image with a link to the ECHO Report Environmental Violations webpage has been found at the bottom of the EPA’s Criminal Enforcement webpage since at least July, 2013. The image is also on the envicomply.com site where EPA environmental enforcement actions may be posted. Interestingly, there is also a close, but not exact, image on the “Brands of the World” webpage dating back to 2007.

4) Those of us who are graphics wonks look forward to seeing if EPA’s environmental enforcement web presence will be built on this older shield image or if there will be a fresh web look-and-feel created by the new administration to address not only environmental violations but the climate crisis writ large.