“Today, environmental and archivist groups including the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Free Government Information published an open letter asking the Environmental Protection Agency not to sunset its online archive, which the agency has indicated it will do in July 2022. The letter and the complete list of initial signatories can be found here. A companion letter from professional historians’ organizations, including the Environmental Historians Action Collaborative and American Society of Environmental Historians, can be found here.
The EPA’s online archive contains a public record of the agency’s positions and activities over the last 20-plus years. These resources convey information about critical environmental issues, and past and present agency activities, policies, and priorities and have facilitated public engagement and oversight of the agency. Maintaining—and improving—the archive supports the agency’s outspoken commitments to public trust, scientific integrity, and environmental justice. Retiring the archive undermines these commitments.
There are documents discoverable through the EPA’s archive that are not available anywhere else, including records of chemicals authorizations, policy decisions, and monitoring data from natural disasters. Only through the EPA archive is it possible to trace public-facing EPA climate change information over the course of the escalating crisis. The EPA’s archive served as a tool to counter some of the effects of the Trump administration’s censorship—especially of climate-related information. When the Trump administration deleted the majority of EPA’s climate change web resources, many of them became available (if challenging to access) through the archive.
In our digital age, agencies must make their documents accessible to the public. We need the EPA’s archive to be improved, not retired. Instead of doing away with the EPA archive, the Biden administration could promote it as a model for other parts of the Executive Branch….”