Agency nixes ‘climate’ from website for trucking

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, September 25, 2017

U.S. EPA changed its website to downplay climate change in its description of a popular but threatened industry-government partnership to boost fuel efficiency in trucking.

The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which has been tracking changes across federal websites, revealed the edits to the SmartWay program website in a report on Friday.

The changes, which took place in April and May, replace words like “climate change,” “carbon” and “greenhouse gas emissions” with “sustainability,” “fuel consumption” and “pollution.” The website also introduces some of the Trump administration’s new buzzwords, like “energy independence,” and it highlights U.S. business interests and leadership rather than global cooperation.

The changes are the latest signs that the federal government is retooling its messaging around the environment to reflect the administration’s priorities, including its dilution of mainstream climate change science. Toly Rinberg, a committee member at EDGI, said similar changes have appeared haphazardly at the Energy, Interior, Agriculture and Transportation departments.

It is unclear if staff voluntarily changed the website or if the decision came from a Trump political appointee.

An EPA spokesperson did not comment by publication time, but the agency has said in the past that website changes are a normal part of a new administration (Climatewire, Aug. 23).

The new wording could preview a possible change in policy or it might indicate a program is de-emphasizing its work on climate change. The Trump administration is considering weakening greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and commercial trucks while proposing deep budget cuts for environmental protection, including the SmartWay program.

The SmartWay program started in 2004. It helps fund technologies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in long-distance freight.

The White House proposed eliminating the program, along with other voluntary partnerships related to climate change like Energy Star, in its spring budget, but appropriators in Congress have proposed fully funding it for now.

“The industry is in favor of these programs, and we count on these programs for various reasons, whether it’s for image or shareholders that require accountability and information,” said Glen Kedzie, vice president and environmental counsel at the American Trucking Associations.