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North Carolina government buries climate change data

North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been taking climate change data off its site.
Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains, a mountain range rising along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

Some time in the past few months, North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) quietly scrubbed its website of information on climate change. The information started disappearing from the site, piece by piece, in 2013, according to the local press.

Most recently, two lengthy reports on climate change mitigation and a link to other resources on global warming have all gone missing from the site. Tom Mather, a spokesperson for the DENR Divison of Air Quality, told local television station WRAL that the changes were made "as part of our ongoing efforts to update, refresh and redesign our website."

"Currently, states do not have a lot of regulatory authority dealing with climate change," he said. "We do have responsibilities in several areas, however, and we still include that information on our website."

According to WRAL, Mather declined to comment on whether the change was made to reflect the current administration's philosophy. But while speaking to Think Progress' Emily Atkin, Mather said that increasingly-limited resources were another factor in the decision.

"Because of declining revenue, we have to make choices all the time about where we allocate our resources, so it makes sense that we devote resources where we have a clear regulatory responsibility," he said.

"Declining revenue" is a bit of an understatement. Since the recession, the state has slashed nearly half of the spending devoted to "natural and economic resources," according to an analysis [PDF] from the non-profit Budget and Tax Center. In recent years, the state has also turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal Environmental Protection Agency grants.

The budget cuts and policy changes at DENR have prompted at least one employee to resign in disgust—and to do so publicly. In an op-ed for the News & Observer, second-generation DENR employee Amy Adams said she had quit her job because of budget cuts and a "hostile takeover of DENR by politically and ideologically motivated lawmakers in the General Assembly."