EDGI is monitoring changes to tens of thousands of federal environmental agency webpages because the effects of proposed changes to federal environmental governance under the current administration could be sweeping and long-lasting. Our work involves monitoring and analyzing how online information is removed or changed, sometimes in subtle but significant ways. For an in-depth analysis of how federal climate change web content was censored in the first year of the Trump administration, check out our report Changing the Digital Climate, and for a thorough analysis of how climate-related language changed across federal agencies over the first two years of the Trump administration, check out our report The New Digital Landscape.
Our Website Monitoring Team monitors and documents changes to federal websites, compiles reports on changes and themes, and works with journalistic partners to publish these findings. After an in-depth internal vetting process, we work closely with partner journalists to ensure context is provided for the changes we have observed. We then aim to disseminate our reports widely so that other journalists, local governments, and environmental advocacy groups can conduct their own analyses of issues that matter to them.
Our body of work consists of three types of publication:
- Web Governance Assessment Reports
- Access Assessment Reports
- Content Change Reports
- Additional publications and posts
For more information on EDGI’s website monitoring work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also explore how development on our monitoring platform, Scanner, is doing at https://github.com/edgi-govdata-archiving/web-monitoring.
Web Governance Assessment Reports
1) Web Governance Analysis of Changes to the EPA’s Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction Effluent Guidelines Webpage (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: December 10, 2019 |
This report covers changes made to the EPA’s Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction (UOG) Effluent Guidelines webpage between July 1 and July 5, 2019, including the removal of information relevant to UOG extraction wastewater management and the final rule’s enforcement. The webpage provides contextual information regarding the promulgation of EPA’s final rule prohibiting the discharge of UOG extraction wastewater into Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) and the extension of the implementation deadline of this rule for some UOG operators in Pennsylvania. However, as of the date of this report, the webpage does not contain sufficient information for a public audience to understand EPA’s regulatory actions. EDGI recommends that government websites such as this one preserve the historical train of regulatory developments and track changes to their webpages such that the public can view the evolution of the information available online. EDGI further recommends that agencies provide ladders of information on their websites, tailoring content at broad and specific levels for both the general public and audiences more versed in the subject matter at hand.
- EDGI Blog – New Report: Web Governance Analysis of Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction Effluent Guidelines
Access Assessment Reports
12) Website Actions by Federal Environmental Agencies During the Government Shutdown, Including Broad Restriction of Access on NOAA Websites (screenshots)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) | Report written: February 25, 2019 |Different federal agencies managed their web resources differently during the recent 35-day partial government shutdown. Many agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed a banner at the top of webpages to inform the public that websites would not be updated, and did not update public datasets. Another agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), blocked access to many web resources by redirecting URLs to a simple government shutdown notice. The lack of maintenance of websites during government shutdowns has historical precedent, such as during the 16-day shutdown in 2013, but we cannot quantify its extent. In the most recent government shutdown, nearly one-third of the NOAA webpages that EDGI monitors (1,045 out of 3,275) redirected to the shutdown notice, including informational pages and data portals for archival climate, atmospheric, oceanic, and environmental data. However, some essential real-time operational data, such as that produced by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), remained available and were regularly updated during the shutdown. Federal agencies have built a web infrastructure in order to deliver data and display important environmental information, but a lack of infrastructural maintenance, such as what transpired during this past government shutdown, has demonstrated how vulnerable that infrastructure can be. In this report we document ways in which different federal agencies managed their web resources during the most recent government shutdown, with particular focus on NOAA. At the end of the report we discuss implications and recommendations for data access and management during future funding lapses.
- EDGI Blog –
Department of the Interior (DOI) | Report written: February 28, 2019 | Since Summer 2018, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has restricted access to its primary climate change webpage: https://www.doi.gov/climate. This change extends previous content removals from the page reported on by EDGI in 2017. DOI has also removed “Climate Change” from its linked menu of “Our Priorities” on the agency’s home page and restricted access to: https://www.doi.gov/climate/
- EDGI Blog – Climate Change Information Gone From DOI Website
10) Reduction in Access to Sage Grouse Conservation Information and Resources on BLM Websites (screenshots)
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) | Report written: December 18, 2018 | The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removed and altered web resources regarding conservation efforts for the sage grouse during the period between March and December 2018, when sage grouse conservation plans have been under revision by BLM.
- EDGI Blog – Sage Grouse Informational Resources on BLM Website Inadequate for Public Participation in Management Plan Amendments
- Pacific Standard – The BLM deletes information on the endangered sage grouse, just ahead of public comment period
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: October 31, 2018 | Since April 2017, EPA has substituted their climate change subdomain with a splash page stating that these sites were being updated to reflect the views of the Trump administration. In October 2018, EPA modified that splash page to remove any mention of “updating” and to simply state, “We want to help you find what you are looking for.” EPA also removed links to the outgoing administration snapshot (January 19, 2017 snapshot) of the climate change website main page and to the press release about the initial removal of the climate change websites.
- EDGI Blog – EPA Discontinues Updates to Climate Change Websites
- E&E News – Trump admin halts update to climate site
- The Guardian – ‘It’s a ghost page’: EPA site’s climate change section may be gone for good
- Motherboard – The EPA’s Climate Change Page is Just Gone Now
- Newsweek – Trump’s EPA May Have Shut Down Its Climate Change Website For Good
- EcoWatch – The EPA Has Disappeared Its Climate Page
8) Removals of Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Incidental Take Resources from the DOI’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Website (screenshots)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) | Report written: September 25, 2018 | The U.S. Department of Interior’s (DOI) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has removed links and content related to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and to “Incidental Take” from three webpages in the FWS domain. The FWS “Incidental Take” page itself has also been removed. Additionally, a “public involvement initiative” website of FWS, birdregs.org, that focused on the incidental take of migratory birds, is no longer accessible. The website changes described in this report occurred between December 28, 2017 and April 6, 2018.
- EDGI Blog – Fish and Wildlife Service removed online resources after controversial opinion on incidental take
7) Removal of EPA’s “International Priorities” and “International Grants and Cooperative Agreements” pages, as well as corresponding links, from the International Cooperation Website (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: April 23, 2018 | The EPA has removed its “International Priorities” page, which listed “Strong Environmental Institutions,” “Climate Change,” “Air Quality,” “Clean Water,” “Toxic Chemicals,” and “E-Waste” as priority areas. Likewise, the “International Grants and Cooperative Agreements” page and links to information about priorities and grant applications were removed from EPA’s International Cooperation website.
- ThinkProgress – EPA website removed references to climate change from its international priorities
- Politico – Morning Energy
- The Hill – EPA removes ‘international priorities’ page from site
6) Removal of Climate Action Plans and Links from the National Park Service’s Climate Friendly Parks Program Website (screenshots)
Department of the Interior (DOI) | Report written: December 21, 2017 | 92 documents regarding national parks’ response to climate change have been removed from the National Park Service (NPS) “Climate Friendly Parks Program” website. NPS is part of the Department of the Interior. To become a Climate Friendly Parks (CFP) member, parks are required to meet four milestones, which include developing a baseline of greenhouse gas emissions for park operations and completing a park climate action plan. Links to the parks’ action plan documents and to two webpages detailing aspects of two particular parks’ plans have been removed from a list of the Program’s member national parks. No public NPS Web archive has yet been identified, but instructions to email NPS for access to the parks’ action plans have been added.
- EDGI blog post – Climate Action Plans for National Parks Removed from Site Without Advance Explanation
- Motherboard – The National Park Service Promises to Reinstate 92 Climate Change Documents Removed From Website
- Mashable – The National Park Service removed climate change plans from website, but it may be for a good reason
- The New Republic – Minutes
- EcoWatch – Nearly 100 Climate Action Plans for National Parks Removed From Website
5) Assessment of Removals and Changes in Access to Resources on the EPA’s “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Government” Website (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: October 18, 2017 | On April 28, 2017, the EPA removed its website titled “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments.” Approximately three months later, a new website titled “Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments” was launched in its place, with fewer pages and omitting Web resources relating to climate and climate change. All Web tools and certain energy resources appear to have been moved from the previous website to the new one, although a comprehensive comparison has not yet been conducted. The launch of the new “Energy Resources” website is the first example where the EPA has returned content following those April 28th removals.
- EDGI blog post – 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
- New York Times – E.P.A. Scrubs Climate Change Website of ‘Climate Change’
- Earther – Some of The EPA’s Climate Change Pages Came Back, But They’re Missing Something
- E&E News – Missing agency webpages return without climate info
- Mashable – EPA’s climate change website reappears, missing the word ‘climate’
- POLITICO – Morning Energy
- The Weather Channel – Mentions of Climate Change Removed from EPA’s Climate Change Page, Environmental Group Finds
- Union of Concerned Scientists – Statement
4) Removal of Substantial Portion of Content and Reduction in Access to Resources on the USDA’s Climate Hubs Website (screenshots)
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) | Report written: August 1, 2017 | Between the evenings of July 27 and July 28, USDA removed substantial portions of its Climate Hubs website. The web content was removed for approximately 5 days without notice or explanation and was returned following media inquiries made with the USDA based on the release of the report above.
- EDGI blog post – Removals and Access Reductions on the USDA’s “Climate Hubs” Website Prompt Concerns About Transparency and Public Access
- E&E News – Climate website went dark for updates, not politics
- POLITICO – Morning Agriculture
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: July 12, 2017 | Web resources were removed from the “Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act” page on the EPA’s website. The lack of access to these resources likely originated from mismanagement of web resources during the EPA’s climate change website overhaul, which occurred on April 28, 2017, and not a more recent removal of content.
- Following up on original reporting by: E&E News – July 11, 2017 – Endangerment finding documents disappear from website
2) Removal of Information and Reduction in Access to Resources on the EPA’s Clean Water Rule Website (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: June 29, 2017 | The EPA overhauled its website pertaining to the Clean Water Rule. The previous website, which extensively described the Clean Water Rule and its benefits, was replaced by a website providing information about the EPA’s review of the Rule.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: May 5, 2017 | As a result of the EPA’s Climate Change website overhaul, the “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change” subdomain is no longer accessible via the main EPA website and is incorrectly stated as captured in the EPA’s January 19 snapshot.
- Climate Central – The EPA’s Obama-Era Snapshot Is Missing Information
- The Washington Post – The EPA just buried its climate change website for kids
- The Hill – EPA website buries youth guide to climate change
Content Change Reports
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: October 9, 2018 | The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) former “Natural Gas Extraction – Hydraulic Fracturing” webpage has been updated to entirely remove the page title and change it to “Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development.” A section detailing EPA stakeholder outreach called “Promoting Transparency and Conducting Outreach” was removed. A section called “Convening Stakeholders” was added that highlights EPA partnerships with oil and natural gas sectors. Content and links related to EPA guidance and compliance material on hydraulic fracturing were removed.
- Motherboard – The EPA Gave Its Website a Pro-Fracking Makeover
22) Removal of Climate Change Mentions, Links, and Information from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Website (screenshots)
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) | Report written: July 2, 2018 | In late 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) webpages on climate change were altered to remove mentions of the impact of climate change on occupational safety and health. Climate change mentions and information, including many sentences and a chart detailing the relationship between climate change and workplace health and safety, were removed from pages. An entire page linking to government and academic publications addressing the impact of climate change on worker health and safety was removed.
- The Washington Post – The mysterious disappearance of the phrase ‘climate change’ from a CDC website
21) Removal of a Climate Change Webpage from and Shift in Language on the Bureau of Land Management’s Website (screenshots)
Department of the Interior (DOI) | Report written: January 9, 2018 | DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removed its climate change webpage and altered language on several webpages describing BLM’s mission, management of public lands, and national priorities.
20) Removal from the Greening EPA Website of a Climate Change Adaptation Web Resource, Links to Resources, and Mentions of EPA’s Own Greening Performance Goals (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: December 6, 2017 | The EPA’s Greening EPA website has been altered to remove access to Web resources on climate change adaptation, and to remove wording related to EPA’s own goals for climate change resilience and adaptation. An EPA statement on climate change adaptation and a link to the Statement have been entirely removed. Links to EPA’s Climate Change Adaptation Plans have been removed from at least two pages on the EPA website. References to EPA’s federal leadership and goals to cover 100 percent of its own electricity use nationwide through purchasing renewable energy have also been removed.
- CNN Politics – EPA removes climate change references from website, report says
- POLITICO – Morning Energy
- The Washington Post – Energy 202
- E&E News – More climate change references missing from webpages
- PBS Frontline – As “Climate Change” Fades from Government Sites, a Struggle to Archive Data
19) Confirmation of Changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hurricane Maria Webpage (screenshots)
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) | Report written: October 5, 2017 |The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) removed statistics from the “Federal Response Updates” section on its “Hurricane Maria” webpage. Certain subsections and bullet points reporting statistical metrics, quantifying access to electricity and drinking water, were removed. Additional statistics, descriptive bullet points, and images were also updated. This report confirms the changes to FEMA’s “Hurricane Maria” webpage identified by The Washington Post article below.
- Following up on original reporting by: The Washington Post – October 5, 2017 – FEMA removes — then restores — statistics about drinking water access and electricity in Puerto Rico from website
- Mashable – FEMA omits statistics on Puerto Rico hurricane response from website
- Vice – FEMA has been deleting facts about Puerto Rico from its website
18) Changes to Language on the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Program Website (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: September 19, 2017 | The EPA changed language on the SmartWay Program website, reducing mentions of carbon, greenhouse gasses, and climate change. Terms like “sustainability” and “emissions” replaced mentions of “carbon,” and emphasis on international SmartWay and other climate efforts were reduced.
- The Washington Post – Climate change terms altered in another corner of EPA’s website
- E&E News – EPA: Agency nixes ‘climate’ from website for trucking
- POLITICO – Morning Transportation and Morning Energy
- The Hill – EPA removes climate references from truck efficiency website
17) Removals of Climate Change Mentions and Links from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Website (screenshots)
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) | Report written: August 20, 2017 | The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has altered climate change language, updated climate change references, and reduced access to a Web resource with information on climate change and human health across several webpages. On the Global Environmental Health pages, the term “climate change” has been changed to “climate” on side menus and page titles. Links to an educational fact sheet about climate change were removed, reducing access to the resource.
- The Washington Post – NIH unit deletes references to climate ‘change’
- The Guardian – Another US agency deletes references to climate change on government website
- Independent – US government agency drops several ‘climate change’ references insisting Trump wasn’t behind it
- ThinkProgress – National environmental health website quietly changes language about climate change
- POLITICO Pulse – NIH site drops mentions of ‘climate change’
- E&E News – Agency defends website changes on climate
- EcoWatch – ‘Climate Change’ Removed From National Institutes of Health Website
- New York Magazine – NIH Website Scrubs Mention of Climate Change
Department of Energy (DOE) | Report written: May 20, 2017 | The DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions’ (OTT) Clean Energy Investment Center page has been updated to entirely remove the phrase “clean energy.” The Center’s name was changed from “Clean Energy Investment Center” to “Energy Investor Center” and links to pages on clean energy resources were removed from the OTT website.
- The Washington Post – Don’t call it ‘climate change’: How the government is rebranding in the age of Trump
Department of the Interior (DOI) | Report written: April 28, 2017 |The DOI made changes to its climate change page, removing and re-writing descriptive paragraphs and entire sections on the DOI’s role in addressing climate change.
- Following up on original reporting by: Motherboard – April 28, 2017 – The Interior Department Just Quietly Scrubbed Its Climate Change Page
14) Changes to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office Web Pages (screenshots)
13) Changes to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Office Web Pages (screenshots)
12) Changes to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office Web Pages (screenshots)
Note: Reports 12-14 were co-released
Department of Energy (DOE) | Reports written: April 19, 2017 | DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) has made extensive changes to pages pertaining to the Bioenergy Technologies Office, Wind Energy Technologies Office and Vehicles Technologies Office. Stated office priorities were changed to decrease emphasis on renewable fuels as a replacement for fossil fuels and increase emphasis on US jobs and economic growth.
- The Washington Post – Changes to Energy Dept. websites downplay renewables as a replacement for fossil fuels
- Climate Central – The Energy Dept. Website Shifts Focus to the Economy
11) Rewording of Language, Domain Names, and Titles on the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration Environment Pages (screenshots)
Department of Transportation (DOT) | Report written: April 13, 2017 | The DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has changed language and titles across multiple pages relating to environmental effects of transportation, such as replacing “climate change” and “greenhouse gases” with terms like “sustainability” and “emissions”.
- Following up on original reporting by: E&E News – February 17, 2017 – Highway agency drops mentions of climate change
- Also following up on reporting by: The Washington Post – Federal Highway Administration changes mentions of ‘climate change’ to ‘resilience’ in transportation program
10) Removal and Change of Language and Content on the Government Accountability Office’s Explanation of Risk in the Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources (screenshots)
Government Accountability Office (GAO) | Report written: April 4, 2017 | The GAO page on managing federal oil and gas resources has been edited to change the framework within which natural gas production is discussed. Content on the environmental and public health risks of shale oil and natural gas production was also removed.
9) Change of Language and Content for the EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities Program and Web Page (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: March 28, 2017 | The EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities program was renamed to Creating Resilient Water Utilities. This change was reflected on the program’s page – all mentions of the word “climate” were removed and terms like “extreme weather” and “resilience” were emphasized.
- Following up on original reporting by: InsideClimate News – February 28, 2017 – EPA Removes Mentions of ‘Climate Change’ in Water Utilities Program
White House (WH) | Report written: March 22, 2017 | The description and mission statement of the WH’s Office of Science and Technology policy was changed, and major site reorganization occurred.
- The New Republic – Can the White House Office of Science Survive Trump?
7) Removal of Language and Links on the Bureau of Land Management’s Hydraulic Fracturing and Methane Rules (screenshots)
Department of the Interior (DOI) | Reports written: February 13, 2017 | The DOI’s Bureau of Land Management’s language about the purpose of the 2015 Hydraulic Fracturing Rule and a link to that rule from a page on regulations for onshore energy production were removed. Additionally, a section on, and link to, the proposed Methane Waste Prevention Rule was removed.
Department of State | Report written: February 10, 2017 (Updated: April 12, 2017) | The description paragraph for the Office of Global Change has been significantly changed. In particular, the terms “adaptation” and “sustainable landscapes” have been added, while the term “greenhouse gas” has been removed. Several links, including one to the Climate Action Report, were removed.
- Climate Central – State Dept. Rewrote Its Climate Change Page
5) Changes to DOE’s Energy Information Administration Kids Educational Pages (addendum; screenshots)
Department of Energy (DOE) | Reports written: February 8, 2017 | On the DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) website, language and content on the Energy Kids educational pages describing environmental impacts of various energy sources has been changed and removed to downplay the harms of nonrenewable energy sources.
- ProPublica – Concern Sparked by Recent Changes to a Department of Energy Website for Kids (Repost in The Atlantic and Common Dreams)
4) Changes to EPA’s Page About Office of Science and Technology within Office of Water (screenshots)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Report written: January 31, 2017 | The description of the role of the Office of Water’s Office of Science and Technology, in the EPA, removed any mention of science, and replaced a mission of developing scientific foundations for protecting people with developing economically and technologically feasible industry performance standards.
- New York Times – Activists Rush to Save Government Science Data – If They Can Find It
- The New Republic – The EPA’s Science Office Removed “Science” From Its Mission Statement (Repost in Mother Jones)
- The Christian Science Monitor – Why EPA’s science and tech office no longer has ‘science’ in its mission
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Reports written: January 29, 2017 | Links to and descriptions of environmental and climate change programs which establish collaborations with international, federal, interagency, and tribal partners were removed from the EPA’s Federal Partner Collaborations page.
- Climate Central – The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-era Information (Repost in Scientific American, Climate Reality, and HeraldNet)
- Business Insider – Scientists across the US are scrambling to save government research in ‘Data Rescue’ events
1) Removal of the State Department’s Climate Action Reports and Changes in Climate Office Descriptions (screenshots)
Note: Reports 1 and 2 were co-released
Department of State and Department of Energy (DOE) | Reports written: January 26, 2017 | On the Department of State’s website, the descriptions of the Office of Global Change and the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change were changed. In addition, pages relating to climate change agreements, such as a page about the Climate Action Report, were removed. On the DOE’s website, the Climate Action Plan page was removed.
- The Intercept – A Coalition of scientists keeps watch on the U.S. government’s climate data (Only refers to Report 1)
- Business Insider – Data on climate change progress is disappearing from the US State Department website
5) The New Digital Landscape: How the Trump Administration Has Undermined Federal Web Infrastructures for Climate Information
1) Changing the Digital Climate: How Climate Change Web Content is Being Censored Under the Trump Administration
Disclaimer for all EDGI Reports: The information and images within the report are for general information purposes only. The scope of this report is limited to version monitoring information of publicly available websites. EDGI has no control over the nature, content, or sustained availability of the websites we monitor. While EDGI works to assure that the information in this report is correct, that information is subject to the limitations of version tracking software, and is provided “as is.” EDGI makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness or reliability of this information, nor does EDGI intend to assess any agency or entity’s intentions or rationale for the demonstrated changes to any webpages or other online content that appear in this report. Do not rely on the information in this report as predictive, or ascribe intent not presented within the report. In no event will EDGI or any of its members be liable for the use or misuse of the information in this report. Please consult with an appropriately qualified expert if you require qualitative evaluation of or advice about the content of this report.