In what could either be a paperwork-saving decision or a thinly veiled gesture of defiance, the Environmental Protection Agency has put a mirror of its own website online — a “snapshot” from January 19, the day before Trump was sworn in as president.
The backup appeared yesterday at a subdomain of EPA.gov, and since then has appeared under the “Frequently requested information” heading in the live webpage’s FOIA section. It appears that enough FOIA requests were submitted for various pieces of the website, or the entire site itself, that the agency decided to just put up a full mirror.
A banner at the top of the page recalls the one found on the archived Obama WhiteHouse.gov:
This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017. This website [i.e. the snapshot] is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.
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.
That the mirror is dated January 19, though, can hardly be a coincidence. The Trump administration is openly hostile to the EPA, and its ascendance may very well mark the agency’s final days — at least as the agency it’s been for the last few decades. Early indicators, such as clamping down on any mention of climate change, are not reassuring.
Scott Pruitt, the man nominated to lead the agency, has sued it a dozen times (some suits are still open) and would almost certainly put up no resistance to its reduction or elimination. His confirmation vote is fast approaching, but at least one Republican Senator (Maine’s Susan Collins) has announced her intention of voting against him.
I contacted the EPA for more details on the circumstances surrounding this snapshot; in a statement, the agency wrote:
Immediately following the 2017 Presidential inauguration, the agency received numerous FOIA requests regarding historic versions of the EPA website. The Agency is making its best reasonable effort to 1) preserve agency records that are the subject of a request; 2) produce requested agency records in the format requested; and 3) post frequently requested agency records in electronic format for public inspection. To meet these goals, EPA has re-posted a snapshot of the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017.