EPA Provides Misleading Assurance of Information Preservation
An email sent by the press office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) incorrectly claims that “federal record keeping requirements” ensure that information withdrawn from the EPA website will remain “available to the public.”
Doug Ericksen, the head of communications for the Trump transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, responded to reports of potential political vetting of scientific research at the EPA as "inaccurate" in an email sent by the EPA press office.
- How Trump Transition Officials Are Privately Explaining the Chaos at the EPA, by Tim Sohn, Slate (Feb. 1 2017).
In that email, Ericksen said:
"Claims that science and research will be deleted are simply not true. Because there are federal record keeping requirements, there is a process in place for archive Federal website information so it remains available to the public if it is removed from the active pages."
This greatly oversimplifies federal record keeping requirements in a misleading way. There is no guarantee that website information removed by an agency will remain available to the public.
Existing federal record keeping requirements do not necessarily guarantee that information that is removed by a new administration from the EPA website will be either deposited with the National Archives (NARA) or that any that are deposited will be made available online by NARA.
It will be up to the EPA to determine whether or not the information it removes from its website fits the definitions that require its deposit with NARA. The presence of information on the EPA website does not automatically make that information a "record" that falls under the Federal Records Act [Public Law 81-754, 64 Stat. 578, TITLE V-Federal Records (64 Stat. 583)].
The disposition of EPA web content is guided by publicly available records schedules (List of EPA Records Schedules in Final Status, and EPA Records Schedules in Final Status), but, according to the NARA Guidance on Managing Web Records Background, it is ultimately up to the agency to determine what information fits the guidelines and what information does not.
Even if web-based public information is deposited, NARA does not guarantee that it will make that information available online.