EPA Staff told to 'stand down' on axing climate page

Robin Bravender and Hannah Hess, E&E News reporters

Trump administration officials appear to have walked back plans to scrub climate change references from U.S. EPA's website.

"We've been told to stand down," an EPA employee told E&E News today. That new directive comes after staff were told yesterday to remove the agency's climate change page from its website, worrying climate change activists and sending data specialists scrambling to download files.

The backlash that erupted after reports surfaced last night that the climate page would be eliminated may have prompted administration officials to change course. News of the plans was first reported last night by Reuters. EPA's press office did not respond to requests for comment today.

It's unclear whether the agency's climate page will remain indefinitely, or only temporarily. "It's not imminent," the EPA staffer said of its removal.

Just yesterday, staffers had gotten opposite instructions. "The word that came down was 'scrub,'" that employee said. The directive was "clearly from the political people. ... It came from the White House."

The controversy over the climate change page comes after EPA was directed to halt its social media and scale back communications with the press. The Trump administration removed the White House climate change website on its first day in office. EPA career staffers, former agency employees and environmentalists view the changes as a troubling sign of how the new administration plans to deal with climate change policies and the agency's workforce.

The directive to remove the climate change information didn't sit well with career employees, the EPA staffer said today. It's "world class" data, and a lot of work went into making it accessible to the public. "And it's true," the source added.

As of press time, EPA's climate change website remained in place, featuring data about last year being the warmest on record, the health impacts of climate change and interactive maps that allow users to see the local impacts of a changing climate.