EDGI is monitoring changes to tens of thousands of federal environmental agency web pages because the effects of proposed changes to federal environmental governance under the current administration could be sweeping and long-lasting. Our work here involves documenting and analyzing data that disappears from public view, and also monitoring and analyzing how data, information, and their presentation may change, sometimes in subtle but significant ways.
After an in-depth internal vetting process by our Website Monitoring Committee, we work closely with partner journalists to make sure context is provided for the change 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 on issues that matter to them.
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.
For more information on EDGI’s website monitoring work, please contact Toly Rinberg.
Access Assessment Reports
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.
- EDGI blog post – Missing EPA Endangerment Finding Web Resources Reignite Confusion: Continued Mismanagement Following the EPA Climate Change Website Overhaul
- 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.
- EDGI blog post – Overhaul of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule Website Removes Information and Reduces Public Access to Resources
- E&E News – Enviros ask for more time to comment on repeal
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.
- EDGI blog post – Errors in the January 19 snapshot of EPA.gov are problematic from transparency, data preservation, and information access standpoints and may have legal implications
- 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
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
- E&E News – Agency axes ‘clean energy’ from tech websites
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
- E&E News – Trump admin overhauls webpages for wind, vehicles
- Climate Central – The Energy Dept. Website Shifts Focus to the Economy
- EcoWatch – Energy.gov Gets Altered, Removes Climate Benefits of Renewables
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.
- Quartz – US government website that used to warn about the risks of oil and gas drilling was changed to promote their economic benefits
- Michigan Radio – More federal websites change what they say about climate, environment
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)
- Quartz – Who needs “science” in an EPA Office of Science and Technology mission statement anyway?
- The Independent – The word ‘Science’ disappears from Environmental Protection Agency office’s mission statement
- 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)
- Mashable – Trump administration begins altering EPA climate change websites
- 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
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.