The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information.
One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions.
The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of former president Barack Obama’s climate policies.
“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
The agency also said it would carefully archive pages from the past administration.
The change was approved by Pruitt, according to an individual familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, to avoid a conflict between the site’s content and the policies the administration is now pursuing.
The staffer described the process of reviewing the site as “a work in progress, but we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.
Yet the website overhaul appears to include not only policy-related changes but also scrutiny of a scientific Web page that has existed for nearly two decades, and that explained what climate change is and how it worked.
The EPA’s extensive climate change website now redirects to a page that says “this page is being updated” and that “we are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.” It also links to a full archive of how the page used to look on Jan. 19, before Trump’s inauguration.