A contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency who was "devastated" by Hillary Clinton's election loss was the source for a false story stating that the agency is shutting down its climate data service.
The EPA's Open Data service, where users can look up EPA facilities in their area and view pollution graphs, will continue to operate, despite several news reports to the contrary.
Bernadette Hyland, a contractor who has access to the Open Data website, was quoted in several publications, including the Independent, which falsely claimed "Donald Trump is to completely shut down one of the government's most important data services."
The Independent warned that citizens would "no longer be able to access information on their environment and climate, keeping them from researching potentially fatal changes to their area."
The story was based on a claim made by Hyland, who wrote an article on the website Medium on Sunday that said she was notified by the EPA that funding was no longer available to operate Open Data.
She said the Open Data service is used for "climate science research" and "environmental justice."
Hyland was used as the source for other publications, including Popular Science, which claimed the Open Data website's "days were numbered," and EcoWatch, which falsely reported the website was going to be "shut down" on Friday.
The EPA said there were never any plans to shut down the web service and that Hyland was sending unauthorized messages on the agency's behalf.
An unauthorized pop-up message appeared on the Open Data website on Sunday that read, "This site will be shut down Friday, April 28, 2017." After the EPA denied the website would be shut down, the pop-up message read: "The data on this Web site will continue to be available on April 28, 2017."
"This is a contractor sending inappropriate and unauthorized communications on EPA's behalf," said J.P. Freire, an EPA spokesman. "The website isn't going anywhere and this episode has little to nothing to do with contingency plans in case of a shutdown."
Hyland has since updated her post on Medium saying the website will "not be turned off" and praised the fact that the website was never going anywhere as "great news!"
Hyland is a longtime Democrat and supporter of Hillary Clinton. She donated $1,700 to Clinton's failed 2008 presidential campaign, as well as $250 to the Democratic National Committee in 2004, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Hyland attended the liberal March for Science in Brisbane, Australia, over the weekend, and posted photos on Twitter of a woman wearing a pink "pussy hat" with a sign saying, "show me your open data."
Hyland tweeted into the early hours of the morning on Election Day, saying she was "dying inside" over Clinton's loss.
— Bernadette Hyland (@BernHyland) November 9, 2016
Hyland also was devastated on Election night and "feeling sheer anguish" over Donald Trump's victory. She apologized to Susan B. Anthony and added she was "not being dramatic" when she said the "world will never be the same."
Published under: EPA