The Environmental Protection Agency removed portions of its website related to climate change on Friday evening ― hours before thousands were set to protest President Donald Trump’s environmental policy.
Sections dealing with climate change were only part of what is being reviewed, the agency said in a Friday press release. The EPA was making the changes “reflect the approach of new leadership,” it said.
“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,” said J.P. Freire, the EPA’s associate administrator for public affairs, 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 “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”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 Hill noted that pages dealing with climate change and its impacts, climate science, and what readers can do to combat climate change now say they are being updated. The agency has also updated a page on the Clean Power Plan, which the Obama administration had implemented, to reflect the Trump administration’s effort to undo it. The EPA did leave in place a snapshot of the website under the Obama administration, which visitors can see only if they scroll to the bottom of epa.gov.
The EPA made the changes to reflect the agency’s “new direction” under Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt. Trump has suggested that climate change is a hoax and Pruitt has repeatedly questioned how much human beings are contributing to it.
Astrid Caldas, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the changes were deliberately made to coincide with Saturday’s climate march.
“At a time when Americans are increasingly experiencing climate impacts in their daily lives, the administration has seemingly buried its head in the sand,” Caldas said in a statement. “The administration appears to have timed these changes to make information about climate science more challenging to access to coincide with the Peoples Climate March and related news stories, which will likely drive thousands of Americans to visit the EPA website.”
“The facts about climate change have not changed, however, and politics are not a valid reason to archive basic explanations of science,” the statement continued. “While it is unclear what the administration has planned for updating the web page, climate scientists will be watching closely to ensure the scientific accuracy of whatever replaces it, and that the underlying scientific data remain accessible to Americans.”
Officials purged the climate change section a week after Trump released a statement on Earth Day touting his commitment to the environment and scientific inquiry. His administration has taken a number of actions over its first 100 days that threaten the environment.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, questioned why the website needed revision at all.
“It’s hard to understand why facts require revision,” she said.
John O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Council 238, which represents 9,000 EPA employees, called the website change a “sneak attack” in a Saturday statement.
“How many extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, forest fires, or other unnatural disasters do we need to experience before this Administration realizes that global climate change is real and needs to be addressed?” O’Grady said. “Something appears to be very wrong with this Administration’s position on global climate change, and this impacts all Americans, especially the poor and marginalized.”