By Emily Atkin – New Republic.com – March 7, 2017

Before and after screenshots of EPA website  courtesy of EDGI.


When President Donald Trump took office in late January, his administration began tweaking the language on government websites. Some of the more prominent changes occurred on Environmental Protection Agency pages—a mention of human-caused climate change was deleted, as was a description of international climate talks. The shifts were small, but meaningful; many said they signaled a new era for the EPA, one in which the agency would shy away from directly linking carbon emissions to global warming and strive to push Trump’s “America First” message. 

Those initial tweaks were documented by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a group of scientists and academics who spend their free time tracking changes to about 25,000 federal government webpages. On Tuesday, they shared their latest finding with the New Republic: The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Policy no longer lists “science” in the paragraph describing what it does.

“This is probably the most important thing we’ve found so far,” said Gretchen Gehrke, who works on EDGI’s website tracking team. “The language changes here are not nuanced—they have really important regulatory implications.”

The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology has historically been in charge of developing clean water standards for states. Before January 30 of this year, the website said those standards were “science-based,” meaning they were based on what peer-reviewed science recommended as safe levels of pollutants for drinking, swimming, or fishing. Since January 30, though, the reference to “science-based” standards has disappeared. Now, the office, instead, says it develops “economically and technologically achievable standards” to address water pollution.

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