U.S. EPA is continuing to quietly alter climate change information from the sub-pages of its website following the agency’s widely criticized decision more than a week ago to remove its main climate page.
EPA has said it is updating the site to better reflect the Trump administration’s priorities, starting with deleting information on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce power plant emissions. Immediately following this announcement, though, visitors could still see climate change under the “Effects of Air Pollution” in the “Air” section of EPA’s list of “Environmental Topics.”
The agency has now removed climate change from that page entirely. Those seeking information on global warming can find links to an explanation of the removal of the climate change pages by clicking on “Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions,” listed under “Air Pollutants.”
The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative also reported Friday that “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change,” a children’s educational site that included more than 50 webpages, isn’t accessible while navigating within the EPA website and was not properly archived on the Jan. 19 “snapshot” page meant to show EPA’s site prior to the inauguration.
In a blog post, EDGI, which is working to preserve public environmental data, suggested the omission of the students website from the snapshot page was likely accidental. Still, the page’s disappearance could still get the agency in possible legal trouble under the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Records Act for potentially failing to preserve records correctly.
“It demonstrates the importance of properly documenting and systematically coordinating agency website changes and that errors can be made when agencies do not properly document what changes are made during a rapid overhaul of a large and complex website,” according to EDGI.
Former air regulators and environmental groups slammed EPA’s decision to remove climate change information while it makes changes to the website.
“The information should be available to the public,” Janet McCabe, the former acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in an email. “Teachers use this information to help their students understand trends in science, state/local government officials use the information specific to their regions. Companies looking for resources and help on how to reduce their energy bills use it, it goes on and on.”
She also noted that much of the information on EPA’s website had been there for decades through both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Regulators: Ignoring climate hurts clean air efforts
The Sierra Club is now adding the webpage removal to its scientific integrity complaint against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Elena Saxonhouse, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club who originally filed the ethics complaint against Pruitt for his comments about the causes of climate change, said EPA had again violated its scientific integrity policy by removing the climate change pages.
“What’s concerning is they are explicitly saying they are looking to make changes to conform with the approach of new leadership. Science can’t be changed because of a political appointment. That’s what alarmed us,” she said.
The environmental group is now asking for more specific action for the administrator and the agency in the amended ethics complaint to EPA’s scientific integrity official.
“At a minimum, Pruitt should correct his statements and restore information online and advise staff that they would be in violation of the scientific integrity policy if they omit facts on climate change,” she said.
Former state and regional air regulators also critiqued EPA for altering the website and noted that failing to focus on climate change would hurt the agency’s “Back to Basics” agenda of focusing on restoring clean air and clean water.
“The change in EPA’s website ... is politically motivated and not based on science, legal authority or common sense,” said Andy Ginsburg, who spoke to E&E News as a private citizen but is the former air quality administrator at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and planning administrator at the Oregon Department of Energy.
Ginsburg pointed out that strategies to reduce greenhouse gases also reduce conventional pollutants. Controls on burning fossil fuels prevent the emissions of particulate matter, toxic air pollutants and ozone precursors like volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, along with greenhouse gases. Rising temperatures make the impacts of these pollutants worse.
“By not considering these types of interactions, the Trump EPA will necessarily select sub-optimal solutions to air pollution problems that will increase costs in the long run for the regulated community, increase the pollution burden on the public and vulnerable communities, and remove incentives for technological innovation,” Ginsburg said.
John Paul, the former administrator of the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency in Dayton, Ohio, also noted that good energy policies would benefit both air pollution and climate change.
“Utilities have always asked for timeliness and certainty, and a good national energy policy can provide both in an environmentally responsible manner. We need comprehensive energy legislation that maps the future and considers all the important factors—reliability, efficiency, safety, sustainability, sufficiency, and health,” he said in an email.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.