Here’s How a Hillary Supporter Reignited Fears Data Would ‘Go Dark’ Under Trump

By Michael Bastasch Published on April 25, 2017

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contractor and Hillary Clinton supporter started a media firestorm Sunday night when she claimed the Trump administration was shutting down a website hosting tons of government data.

Bernadette Hyland, CEO of 3 Round Stones, published an article claiming, the federal government’s “largest civilian linked open data web service is scheduled to go dark” at noon Friday, April 28.

Hyland even claimed the web page would be permanently shut down, according to the U.K.-based Independent.

EPA officials said it wasn’t true that the open data site was being shut down. “This is a contractor sending inappropriate and unauthorized communications on EPA’s behalf,” EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an emailed statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The website isn’t going anywhere and this episode has little to nothing to do with contingency plans in case of a shutdown,” Freire said.

The blog post came after she participated in a March for Science event in Brisbane, Australia — where she lives. The science march was organized by scientists and activists who oppose President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA and other agencies.

Hyland is a vocal critic of the Trump administration, openly supported Clinton’s presidential bid, and donated $1,700 to her 2008 campaign, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

Hyland tweeted she was “dying inside” after Clinton’s loss to Trump in November. Since then, she’s put out many tweets critical of Republicans and the Trump administration — particularly on issues dealing with EPA.

Her blog post seemed to confirm fears activists have held for months that the Trump administration would try to erase any public climate data inconvenient to its agenda. Activists argue one way Trump could eliminate these databases is through budget cuts. Congress is expected to pass a short-term funding bill at the end of April; but if they don’t, there could be a government shutdown.

So far, there’s no evidence the Trump administration has even contemplated deleting publicly-owned data. An EPA spokesperson told The Hill’s Timothy Cama that the open data site would not “go dark” during a shutdown, like Hyland suggested — but instead would simply not be updated. The same would be true for pretty much all government websites during a government shutdown.

But the social media firestorm had already hit.

On Sunday night, reporters started tweeting pictures of a notice placed on — put there by a contractor. The notice read: “This site will be shutting down Friday, April 28.”

Hyland wrote that the EPA told her company “we need to be ready to turn-off the EPA Open Data web service by noon on April 28, 2017  —  the last day of the current continuing resolution. If Congress does not pass a budget, we will be facing a government shutdown and won’t be able to give technical direction to continue any work.”

The U.K.-based Independent ran the story: “Donald Trump To Turn Off EPA’s Data Service, One Of Government’s Most Important Websites.” Popular Science reported: “What is EPA Open Data, and why would it shut down?”

“It’s not clear whether it will be temporarily halted until more money can be found … or if the shutdown will be permanent, as contractor Bernadette Hyland claimed,” the Independent reported.

The open data page is “used for climate science research, life cycle assessment, health impact analysis and environmental justice,” Hyland wrote in her blog post.

EPA officials changed the pop-up notice Monday, but when asked by a fellow Twitter user why the agency changed it, Hyland credited the huge media response to her blog post on the issue.

Hyland said she refused to let budget cuts “undermine” open data, and encouraged her Twitter followers to use certain hashtags to promote her cause.

In fact, activists were so concerned about the EPA’s alleged plan that the open data site temporarily became overloaded by web traffic, as activists tried to copy all the data before it was lost for good — as Hyland warned could happen.

Washington Post editor Steven Rich called on others to download the EPA data, arguing there’s “no guarantee” the site will be up and running forever.

Hyland told Mashable that the last 24 hours were the best example of “social media working in a positive way to have a positive outcome that I’ve ever personally experienced.”

“I think we benefitted in a way from that momentum,” said Hyland — who runs a company that benefits from EPA spending on open data.

Hyland eventually updated her blog post with EPA’s statement. She wrote: “Good news alert! EPA won’t be shutting down its open data website after all.”

Hyland did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.


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Copyright 2017 Daily Caller News Foundation

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