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John Oliver is a national hero, always talking about issues of importance in clear and exasperatingly funny ways. Take last night’s show in which he highlighted “environmental racism” – a term used to describe environmental injustice that “occurs within a racialized context both in practice and policy” (thanks wikipedia!). He clearly shows the connection with historical “red lining” — in which people of color were, through official government policy(!), denied the ability to purchase homes in certain areas and therefore kept segregated in many cities — and current environmental policy which often designates those same areas as “sacrifice zones” where heavy industry, toxic waste and superfund sites tend to be located.
Oliver does a great job in analyzing government policy, states that the Biden Administration has said publicly that it will focus on environmental justice — EPA even has an environmental justice website! — but also notes that the administration is not meeting its promises on this front and needs to do more.
One thing he failed to mention — and I don’t blame him because it is after all tangential to the issue of environmental racism — is that the EPA plans to sunset its online archive! According to the Verge article — which cites our pals at the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI)!:
Come July, the EPA plans to retire the archive containing old news releases, policy changes, regulatory actions, and more. Those are important public resources, advocates say, but federal guidelines for maintaining public records still fall short when it comes to protecting digital assets.
It’s clear, as Oliver notes, that it’s going to take really big steps to address environmental racism. Local environmental groups will continue to be critical in pushing for changes in government policy and regulation, but they will continue to need access to environmental government information and that’s where librarians can and should do everything in their power to assist in addressing this horrible problem.
Thanks to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) for releasing the Federal Environmental Web Tracker. This tool is a public dataset of searchable records of approximately 1,500 significant changes to federal agency environmental webpages under the Trump administration, these changes were almost always precursors or responses to policy changes. These changes came from a “list of 25,000 federal Web pages related to climate, energy, and the environment, including pages for 20 federal agencies such as EPA, NOAA, and NASA.” Here’s the Tracker’s explanatory page for more context and background.
EDGI continues to do important work in tracking the federal .gov Web domain. EDGI’s work goes hand in hand with the work of the End of Term Web Archive which has harvested the .gov/.mil Web space every 4 years since 2008 and is now deep into its 2020 harvest. And we’re still accepting nominations, so go to the End of Term Nomination Tool hosted by the University of North Texas (UNT) library. Help us collect a snapshot of the federal Web domain!
Today, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) publishes searchable records of approximately 1,500 changes to federal agency environmental webpages under the Trump administration. For four years, EDGI’s website monitoring team has identified and catalogued significant changes to federal websites using their open source monitoring software. EDGI’s Federal Environmental Web Tracker makes records of significant changes publicly available.
The information that’s available on federal websites can have important policy implications. As EDGI has often reported over the past four years, changes to the information that’s available on federal websites are almost always precursors or responses to policy changes. Federal websites provide information that the public is likely to access before commenting on a proposed rule to learn about current regulatory efforts, the science underlying a new policy decision, or likely impacts of a proposed rule. The information found (or not found) on a federal website can impact public participation in regulatory processes.
In the weeks after Trump’s election in November 2016, newly-formed EDGI compiled a list of 25,000 federal web pages related to climate, energy, and the environment, including pages for 20 federal agencies such as EPA, NOAA, and NASA. First using proprietary software and then building and using novel open source software, EDGI has compared versions of these web pages weekly since January 2017. This new dataset represents the documented changes that EDGI’s website monitoring team flagged as significant in some way over the past four years.
EDGI’s Federal Environmental Web Tracker gives journalists, academic researchers, and the public data that can be used to provide insight, documentation, and analysis of the information policies and priorities of the Trump administration.
The Federal Environmental Web Tracker will be updated quarterly as EDGI continues to monitor federal environmental websites.
The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) has just released its 2019 annual report. Check out what they’ve been doing over the past year in terms of archiving data, environmental data justice, interviewing and policy project, and website monitoring. props to EDGI for a year well-worked!
From the report…
EDGI’s Archiving Working Group continues to build on its grassroots Data Rescue efforts that involved events in over 40 cities and towns across North America and ended in mid-2018. Our archiving work has: ● Enhanced the public accessibility of downloaded data ● Established partnerships with software companies, QRI and Protocol Labs, to develop “Data Together,” a set of protocols and technologies for decentralizing data storage online ● Advanced a collaboration with Science 2 Action to build systems to better identify still vulnerable federal datasets and effectively copy them ● Launched the beta-version of our Environmental Impact Statement search tool in consultation with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.
Archiving is perhaps the most-changed of EDGI’s areas of work. A year ago, Archiving was the home of a lot of direct work: hosting large data-archiving events and building software tools to support the identification and storage of data. But in the last year, Archiving has become more reflective, quieter, and theory-focused. Archiving continues to hold the data that was harvested in previous years, but now the group gives most of its attention to thoughtful design of data archiving technologies. There are two main reasons for the shift in focus. One is highly pragmatic: the sheer bulk of volunteer labor required to continuously host events and build software tools was unsustainable. The second reason is more a mark of our organization’s maturation. EDGI’s core strength is not in its capacity to do work; rather, it is in its ways of being, doing, and thinking. EDGI’s unique value is its interdisciplinary site at the crossroads of justice, environment, data, and technology . As such, Archiving has been focusing on Data Together, an ongoing and inclusive conversation between EDGI and partners QRI and Protocol Labs, both of whom are building foundational technology for storing data in a decentralized internet. All of the partners think daily about data provenance and ownership and sharing models. The first annual Data Together meeting, in August 2018, yielded the Data Together mission: Data Together empowers people to create a decentralized civic layer for the web, leveraging community, trust, and shared interest to steward data they care about. The group also completed the first “semester” of a monthly reading group. Through carefully curated reading lists and 90-minute group discussions, the partners covered the topics of: the decentralized web; ownership; commons; centralization vs. decentralization vs. peer-to-peer or federation; privacy; and justice. This is a place for partners to seat their work in broad, theoretical contexts. We anticipate that the Archival functions within EDGI will continue to change as the organization continues to learn.
There’s a new report out from the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) chronicling the changes the EPA has made to its webpage on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Check out the changes side by side using snapshots from the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.
In January this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revamped its webpage on fracking. The page now promotes the interests of the fossil fuel industry at the expense of scientific knowledge and public transparency.
These edits were documented by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, a coalition that has tracked changes made to federal environmental websites during the Trump administration. The president has vowed to ease restrictions on fracking as part of his fossil fuel-heavy economic plan…
Some of the most significant changes to the page emphasize the economic benefits of fracking while obscuring its known risks, such as air pollution and drinking water contamination—findings the EPA’s own scientists stressed in the months preceding President Trump’s inauguration.
“[This is] one among many instances wherein the administration has deemphasized or questioned the importance or credibility of scientific knowledge and scientists,” Arnold said, noting President Trump’s “scientists on both sides” refrain regarding climate change and other environmental issues…
Some paragraphs were wholesale removed, such as one that said the EPA is working to improve our scientific understanding of fracking, and another that underscored the need to carefully manage natural gas development in tandem with its rapid development.
Mashable reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has eliminated more than 80 climate change web pages. This according to a new report from the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI). The EDGI report notes that while NASA maintains a number of informative and frequently updated climate change websites, the EPA’s sites have been gradually obscured, and now eliminated. It certainly would be a public service if Congress would investigate why the EPA, supposedly charged with protecting the environment (it’s in its name!), would obfuscate and delete critical environmental information and data.
Sometime during the night of Oct. 16, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eliminated more than 80 climate change web pages — many of the last vestiges to the agency’s online recognition of climate change.
…”There’s no indication now that there was even a climate change website,” Eric Nost, the EDGI report’s lead author, said in an interview.
…The EPA did not respond to multiple attempts for comment about why the public webpages were deleted and if they might return.
…Of note, both the EPA and NASA are sprawling federal agencies directly answerable to the office of the president. Yet, while NASA maintains a slew of informative, diligently updated, and visually-rich climate change websites, the EPA’s sites have been gradually obscured, and now eliminated.
…NASA is a research agency, emphasized Stan Meiburg, the former Acting Deputy Administrator of the EPA, in an interview. It largely exists to perform science. Conversely, he noted that the EPA — which is responsible for protecting human health and the environment — is primarily a regulatory agency, writing and enforcing environmental rules.
… Right now, the environmental agency hopes to enforce a slew of new rules that would, among a variety of things, significantly roll back fuel-efficiency standards for new vehicles and replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan.