The Trump administration took an interest in the content of the Environmental Protection Agency’s website in its first week in office, with Administrator Scott Pruitt eventually directing edits, according to internal documents made public Monday.
Pruitt, who took office last February, was personally interested in changes related to the Clean Power Plan, a sweeping greenhouse gas regulation that was a priority of the Obama administration but that Pruitt would eventually announce plans to withdraw.
“How close are we to launching this on the website? The Administrator would like it to go up ASAP,” Lincoln Ferguson, an adviser to Pruitt, wrote in early April. “He also has several other changes that need to take place.”
The top official in the public affairs office, J.P. Freire, wrote back: “You can tell him we have already mocked it up, and are just finishing up. Should happen this week.”
“Just asking because he (Pruitt) is asking …,” wrote Ferguson.
The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, were posted online Monday by the Environmental Defense Fund. Activists have been monitoring the EPA and other government agency websites for edits that remove or limit access to scientific information.
“We are constantly updating our website to reflect new initiatives and projects of the agency,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told CNN on Monday. “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 our website: www.epa.gov.”
The changes, including the removal of pages on climate change, were eventually rolled out on a Friday evening in late April. Freire said in a news release that day that the changes were made “to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency” and “eliminate confusion.” Some pages were replaced with new content, and other pages redirected to a message that the page “is being updated.”
The Obama administration’s pages were moved to archives, and the emails show website staffers addressing issues with links and pages that did not successfully move.
One item of interest to the agency was a page with climate change information aimed at children. It received around 1 million visits per month, and sometimes closer to 2 million, according to site visit data included in the EPA documents.
Nearly a month before Pruitt took office – and days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration – the new administration had its eye on the EPA’s website, and word was apparently communicated to the team responsible for maintaining it.
“When you get a chance can you send me the list of the websites the transition team wants dismantled?” wrote one EPA staffer on January 25.
The emails suggest nothing came of that conversation. “This action has not been approved yet,” wrote back a colleague.