EPA website removed references to climate change from its international priorities

This has global implications.

Workers seen collecting coal from Jadukata River at Tahirpur on December 18, 2017 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CREDIT: Rehman Asad / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Workers seen collecting coal from Jadukata River at Tahirpur on December 18, 2017 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CREDIT: Rehman Asad / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed online content relating to  “international priorities” and “international grants and cooperative agreements” according to a new report from the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI).

The EPA International Cooperation website is missing two pages linking to global environmental issues and priorities, the EDGI report said. And according to screenshots provided by EDGI, the agency is specifically scrubbing references to issues like climate change from the website, including the removed pages.

Advertisement

The site was originally a place to promote the EPA’s international endeavors and was meant to detail EPA efforts “to promote sustainable development, protect vulnerable populations, facilitate commerce, and engage diplomatically around the world” with “global and bilateral partners.”

Published Monday, the 13-page assessment shows that the EPA removed its International Priorities page from the International Cooperation website in December 2017. The page listed “Strong Environmental Institutions, Climate Change, Air Quality, Clean Water, Toxic Chemicals, and E-Waste” as key priority areas.

Also gone is the International Grants and Cooperative Agreements page, greatly restricting its references to financial assistance projects as well as priorities and grant applications pages. Information on grants for Native American tribes was removed as well. While most of the linked areas previously found on both pages remain available on the website, they remain buried and are difficult to access without the central pages.

The EDGI report notes that it makes no effort to “assess any agency or entity’s intentions or rationale for the demonstrated changes to any webpages or other online content” but provides links and screenshots to verify the pages’ removal.

Disappearing climate information is nothing new for this administration. Since President Trump took office, the EPA has removed references to environmental and sustainability issues from a number of websites. According to a report from EDGI released in January, the Trump administration has removed or buried thousands of websites relating to climate change more broadly at not only the EPA but the Interior and Energy Departments, among others.

Advertisement

In April 2017, the agency announced that it would be “updating” language on its website in order to bring its online resources in line with the Trump administration’s views.

Pages relating to climate change and climate science disappeared at that time, sparking outcry from environmental activists and organizations. A later October 2017 analysis found that multiple resources and links to material documenting the impact of climate change had been removed from the EPA website. Some of the missing information includes links to taxpayer-funded data, including data previously available on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website.

International climate issues and assistance, like the kind referenced on the EPA’s International Cooperation page, have also served as a source of ire for the White House. In June 2017, Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Among his most-cited reasons for leaving was global climate finance, namely U.S. contributions to other countries without similar resources.

Efforts like the Green Climate Fund (GCF) help developing countries grow sustainably, allowing nations to achieve a higher quality of life through climate-resilient and low-carbon technologies and innovations. Countries like coal-reliant India have cited GCF assistance as a necessary incentive in working towards the climate targets set by the Paris agreement. In 2014, the United States committed to paying $3 billion to the GCF, $1 billion of which was paid by the Obama administration.

Advertisement

But Trump’s proposed 2018 budget eliminated GCF contributions, in addition to shifting away from global climate finance more broadly. Instead, the White House has pushed for U.S. energy interests abroad, namely natural gas infrastructure and so-called “clean coal”, a process that uses carbon capture and storage — CCS —  which experts have largely deemed a myth.

Coal is a fossil fuel and one of the world’s leading sources of global warming. Information scrubbed from the International Cooperation page includes promises to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants such as methane from landfills and black carbon from cookstoves and diesel engines” both at home and abroad. A section on promoting “cleaner fuels and vehicles” in developing countries is also gone.

The EDGI assessment notes that the EPA has yet to provide a public statement explaining the page removals, or indicating when the content might be replaced.


UPDATE: In response to a query about the missing pages, a spokesperson for the EPA told ThinkProgress that the agency is “constantly updating our website to reflect new initiatives and projects” and indicated that this instance is no different.

“Of course the site will be reflective of the current administration’s priorities – with that said, all the content from the previous administration is still easily accessible and publicly available-through the banner across the top of the main page of the site,” the spokesperson said.