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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

EPA mirrors its own pre-Trump website

Gizmodo and TechCrunch are reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put a mirror of its own website online — a “snapshot” from January 19, the day before Trump was sworn in as president.

  • The EPA posted a backup of its website dated just before inauguration day, by Devin Coldewey techcrunch (Feb 16, 2017).

    “It’s still technically an EPA website, and so could be removed through executive action, but the fact that it was much-requested via FOIA should make it pretty robust against takedown.”

  • The EPA Just Posted A Mirror Website Of The One Trump Plans To Censor by Matt Novak, Gizmodo (Feb 17, 2017).

    “… after individual efforts to backup the website, along with plenty of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the EPA just posted a snapshot of the site as it existed on 19 January 2017, the day before Trump was sworn in.

    “‘The genius of this approach is that, because they were required by federal law to post the mirror site (because it’s a frequently requested record), it’s harder now to force it down,’ writer and anthologist Russ Kick told Gizmodo over email.”

  • 19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/

    “This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to www.epa.gov. This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.”

Gizmodo reports that “there are elements of the website that aren’t backed up because of size constraints” and provides links to those sections of the current epa.gov website.

EPA cuts attendance at Alaska environment forum

NPR reports that Trump administration transition officials ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut in half its staff attending the Alaska Forum on the Environment.

NPR reports that EPA transition official Doug Ericksen blamed the cutback on excessive travel costs even though some of the attendees cut work just blocks away from the meeting site.

The Alaska Dispatch News said that the cuts came just three days before the Forum, which has met for at least 19 years. The meeting agenda included the effects of climate change on subsistence fishing and how to help coastal communities threatened by erosion and sea-level rise decide whether, and when, to relocate.

The news quotes Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club:

This raises important questions about government transparency and public access to important information.

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.

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.

EPA Removes and Changes Climate Information from its Website

Climate Central, an organization of scientists and journalists, reports that the Trump administration has removed federal climate plans, tribal assistance programs, and references to international cooperation from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

The report also says:

A mention of carbon pollution as a cause of climate change has also been removed and adaptation has been emphasized, indicating an attempt to separate the cause of climate change from the response.

A statement from the agency claims that some of the changes are “housekeeping.”

The report is based on research done by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), which is tracking changes to tens of thousands of federal environmental agency web pages. EDGI is also building online tools, events, and research networks to proactively archive public environmental data and ensure its continued publicly availability.

Troubling freeze on science by Trump administration

The news out of Washington DC is not good if you’re a government information librarian or an open government advocate. In the last 24 hours, the Trump administration has put a freeze on EPA grants and contracts and ordered USDA science researchers to “cease publication of ‘outward facing’ documents and news releases.” Not only does this have a massive negative impact on scientific research — and the thousands of researchers and students who rely on federal grants to do their work and live on a day-to-day basis! — but it also shuts the door on our government’s communication with its citizens. Stay tuned and aware that this is going on, and by all means contact your representatives to let them know that this is NOT all right!

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