Procedure: Ensuring Access to EPA Information on EPA Servers

Brief Description

(see the full document below for details)

This document outlines the procedures for ensuring access to EPA information by hosting EPA data and information on the epa.gov server. Additionally, it provides the procedures for obtaining waivers of this requirement.

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Note

The freeze on issuing new .gov domains for Executive Branch agencies, implemented on June 13, 2011, was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2011 (seeOMB Guidance on Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service (PDF)  Exit (2.3 MB, 6 pages, June 2011)). Effective January 1, the Federal CIO has extended the freeze while OMB reviews plans to issue new guidance related to .gov domain approval that will formalize the "no new .gov domains" policy. The freeze does not apply to creating new EPA program or EPA-level subdomains.

Contact Jonda Byrd (byrd.jonda@epa.gov) or Amanda Sweda (sweda.amanda@epa.gov) if you need further assistance.

Definitions

Public Access Web server: a server or server cluster that provides unrestricted access to EPA’s information. This type of server does not contain any confidential information.

www.epa.gov : the EPA Public Access Web site. It includes all EPA servers which provide data and information presented at this Web location.

 

Required Steps

Required Steps for all EPA Public Access Pages

  1. EPA must provide its public information on the epa.gov server.  The Agency central server cluster, hosted by the National Computer Center (NCC), is the official server location for Agency public communications via the Web.
  2. For pages that need to be hosted on a server external to EPA, there are different required steps depending on the type of page it is.

Required Steps for EPA Information, already on epa.gov, that is "mirrored," i.e., exactly duplicated, to a server external to epa.gov.

  1. A waiver is not required.
  2. The non-EPA site should provide the location of the EPA page from which the duplication was made, to permit users to review the authoritative source of the information.
  3. To facilitate OEI oversight, the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of each mirrored non-EPA site must be reported to the Director, Information Access Division, OEI (MC 2843T).  The following additional items should also be provided:
    1. What office maintains the EPA Web page that is being “mirrored” on a non-EPA site (provide contact information);
    2. What the non-EPA site is about; and
    3. What agency/organization is responsible for the non-EPA site.

Required Steps for Non-Standard Applications

  1. Program offices should confer with the staff of OEI's National Computer Center (NCC) prior to developing non-standard applications for delivering EPA information to the public through the Internet.
  2. If NCC can meet the need through supported information technology architecture, program offices must use that supported option.
  3. If NCC is unable to provide the required service or environment, and the Office Director wants to use another provider, then a waiver request must be submitted.

Required Steps for EPA-only Sponsored Conference Pages

  1. For registration and confirmation pages:
    • If credit card information must be collected, you may host these pages (e.g., registration, error messages, receipts, confirmation) outside of epa.gov without a waiver, but follow these steps:
      • Use the same look and feel as on other pages for the conference on pages hosted on the external server.
      • To help track use of such pages, send the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of each non-EPA page to OEI's Director of Information Analysis and Access and OPA's Director of Web Communications.
      • Alert visitors by stating on the registration page:  "Registration information is collected by XYZ Corp. on contract to EPA." or similar language.
    • If credit card information is not necessary, registration and confirmation pages must be hosted on epa.gov.
  2. Host all other Web pages and supporting materials on epa.gov.
  3. As long as the Web pages meet the requirements above, the database that actually stores registration information may be hosted outside of epa.gov without a waiver. Alert visitors by stating on the registration page:  "Registration information is collected by XYZ Corp. on contract to EPA." or similar language.
  4. Request a waiver if an entire conference Web site needs to be hosted outside of the EPA server.

Required Steps for Joint Conferences

If an EPA program or regional office co-sponsors a conference with an outside organization or another Federal agency and wants to host the entire conference Web site (specifically registration) outside of the epa.gov server follow the steps below:

For co-sponsorship with other Federal agencies:

  1. EPA will work with other Federal agencies to ensure that the conference web site contains appropriate security and privacy protection procedures and complies with accessibility requirements for persons with disabilities as set forth in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  2. The EPA program office must submit a waiver to the Office of Environmental Information for use of a web site for a conference outside of the epa.gov server (Required Steps for Waivers to Use Web Servers External to epa.gov – Non-Emergency Web sites).

For co-sponsorship with non-federal organizations: 

  1. EPA must work with the non-federal organization to ensure that the legal standards for joint sponsorship of conferences are followed as set forth in Ethics Advisory 96-15 (PDF)  Intranet(6 pp, 32 K)
  2. The EPA program office must submit a waiver to the Office of Environmental Information for use of a conference web site outside of the epa.gov server (Required Steps for Waivers to Use Web Servers External to epa.gov – Non-Emergency Web sites).
  3. In addition, the program office must enter into a co-sponsorship agreement with the non-federal partner in accordance with the Office of General Counsel's (OGC) advice.  OGC advises program offices to enter into written co-sponsorship agreements that ensure that the private party voluntarily complies with Agency policies for co-sponsored events.  EPA's template for co-sponsorship agreements now includes provisions for conference registration web site security and privacy protection and access for persons with disabilities. For information about this agreement, contact Office of General Counsel Attorney James Drummond, (202) 564-5456 or drummond.james@epa.gov

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Examples

  1. The Energy Star Web site is an example of a joint Web site that does not have an epa.gov address.
  2. The following is a sample notification memorandum containing the conditions for a temporary emergency Web site waiver. 
    Blanket Waiver Memorandum for Temporary Web Sites
    MEMORANDUM
    FROM: SIO, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
    TO:       Office Director
    Office of Information Analysis and Access
    Office of Environmental Information

    Office Director
    Office of Web Communications
    Office of Public Affairs

    The purpose of this memorandum is to notify you that, in accordance with EPA Procedures for Ensuring Access to EPA Information on EPA Servers, OSWER has established has established a temporary Web site on its Environmental Response Center server at Edison, NJ, to provide EPA information to the public. 

    This Web site was requested by XXXX.
    This temporary Web site is necessary because XXXX.
    The details of this Web site are as follows:
    We understand that this waiver is for a maximum of eight months but we may request a
    30-day continuance by memorandum to the above addressees. 

    The requesting office has committed to duplicating the EPA data and information contained on this site on the EPA Public Access Web site ( www.epa.gov ), through standard established procedures, within 60 days.
    • Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for this Web site is XXXX.
    • This Web site was established on XXXX (date).
    • The point of contact for this Web site is XXXX (name, phone number).

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Rationale

Rationale for using the EPA server

EPA must use a central cluster of computer servers which share EPA's well-known corporate address, www.epa.gov in order to:

  • Provide the public with an Agency-wide content search capability,
  • Assure that EPA information is clear, consistent and approved for dissemination at the Office Director level,
  • Aid in Agency records management, and
  • Protect the integrity and quality of EPA information at known levels.

Additionally, EPA cannot protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of EPA information stored on non-EPA Web sites over which it has no control. This EPA information on non-EPA servers, however, needs protection comparable to that provided for the information stored on the servers comprising www.epa.gov .

Rationale for the use of waivers
There are several legitimate reasons why some Web sites containing EPA information need not be part of www.epa.gov:

  1. Some EPA information is solely on Web sites operated and maintained by a partnership, consortium, or interstate or international commission collaborating with an EPA program office through a formal agreement or mechanism, and the information cannot be easily separated according to its contributors. 
  2. In local situations where there is a significant, immediate public or environmental need, such as chemical spills or newly discovered  Superfund sites, EPA program offices have found it necessary to arrange for ongoing, rapid local dissemination and public outreach. In the past, site coordinators contracted with Internet Service Providers to deliver information rapidly to the public, news media and state and local agency officials.
  3. Situations have also arisen where the Office of Environmental Information, through the Working Capital Fund, did not have the technical resources to provide a particular service, e.g. interactive training, required by a program office.

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Exemptions

Required Steps for Waivers to Use Web Servers External to epa.gov - Non-Emergency Websites

  1. Request a waiver.  The EPA office seeking to place EPA information on a server external to epa.gov provides a memorandum originating at the Office Director level and approved in writing from the requesting office’s Assistant Administrator or equivalent, requesting the waiver through the Office of Information Analysis and Access Office Director (Office of Environmental Information) to the CIO.
     
  2. The document should:
    • Provide the following information:
      • program office requesting the site,
      • purpose of the site,
      • Uniform Resource Locator (URL),
      • date site was established, and
      • the name of a contact.
    • explain the reason for requesting the waiver;
    • identify the Office Director responsible for the EPA information;
    • include assurances that a security plan, based on a risk assessment, has been approved by the Senior Information Official or the Regional IRM Branch Chief, and a management official, for the Web site (see EPA Information Security Manual (2195) and Chapter 8 of the IRM Manual (2100) for additional information);
    • state the requesting office's understanding that the site to be waived is subject to periodic security audits, possibly at the expense of the requesting office;
    • include a privacy protection policy for the Web site;
    • state that the site complies with EPA accessibility (Section 508) requirements (6pp, 116K, About PDF) and procedures (6pp, 43K, About PDF); 
    • state that the proposed site complies with the Product Review guidelines established by the Office of Web Communications in the Office of Public Affairs;
    • state that the Assistant Administrator, General Counsel, Inspector General, Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Staff for the Office of the Administrator, Regional Administrator, as appropriate, acknowledges responsibility for the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the EPA information stored on the server external to epa.gov through a signature on the request;
    • state that the originating office will follow EPA records management and archiving requirements and procedures for EPA data and information; and
    • state that the requesting office understands that technical support and statistics for external sites are the responsibility of the external hosting organization. Support for other than routine problem isolation and resolution may require a service agreement with the National Computer Center (NCC). 

      Additional note on partnership sites:  It is strongly recommended that the joint Web site include a disclaimer stating that the information is drawn from multiple sources, i.e., EPA, et al., and suggest that the viewer examine the information in its original context, if that is possible. Directions to that original information should be provided.
       
  3.  The CIO will make a decision on the waiver request within 60 days.  Note: Memorandums are entered into the Correspondence Management System and approval or denial of the request is sent from the CIO’s office to the office making the waiver request.  The CIO may grant waivers to maintain EPA information on Web sites outside of epa.gov, when that information is not an exact duplicate or “mirror” of what is available on epa.gov, in certain limited circumstances. The preferred location for these sites is within the EPA server cluster at Research Triangle Park, NC. There may be additional costs for security audits of non-EPA sites, or for providing the service through EPA resources (when it is not part of epa.gov).  In order to be considered for a waiver, the Web site must meet the following criteria:
    • The server is a public access server connected to the Internet;
    • The server/Web site external to epa.gov is jointly operated and maintained by a consortium, interstate or international commission, state, other Federal entity, local government, or similar organization, that is collaborating with an EPA program office, laboratory or region through a formal agreement or mechanism;
    • The EPA contribution to the information is intermingled with other information on the Web site and cannot be easily separated from the non-EPA information;
    • There is a security plan, based on a risk assessment, approved by the Senior Information Official or the Regional IRM Branch Chief, and a management official, and such approval is certified in the waiver request;
    • The Assistant Administrator, General Counsel, Inspector General, Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Staff for the Office of the Administrator, Regional Administrator, as appropriate, acknowledges responsibility for the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the EPA information stored on the server external to epa.gov through a signature on the request;
    • To signify the official standing of the information provided, the EPA logo, i.e., seal and/or identifier, is used, but only if the logos of other participating organizations are used (the agreement with the other participating organizations should require all participants to use appropriate logos); and
    • In so far as possible, the originating office publishes the EPA information on EPA's Public Access Web site, even if it requires a different context or format.

Required Steps for Waivers to Use Web Servers External to epa.gov - Temporary Emergency Websites

A blanket waiver up to eight months is granted to program offices which use the Emergency Response Center server of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) at Edison, NJ, to create Web sites to deliver local EPA information where there is a significant, immediate public or environmental need for rapid deployment. This server meets the security requirements established by the Office of Environmental Information and is subject to periodic audits.
Within 15 days of establishing such a site, OSWER must report it to OEI's Director of Information Analysis and Access and OPA's Director of Web Communications.

  1. The following information must be provided:
    • program office requesting the site,
    • purpose of the site,
    • Uniform Resource Locator (URL),
    • date site was established, and
    • the name of a contact.
  2. If the site includes nationally relevant information (e.g., a study about chemicals found at a Superfund site, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this information should be duplicated to epa.gov.
  3. The automatic waiver expires after eight months and should be taken down. However, OEI and OPA will consider requests for 30-day extensions.

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See Also

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Related Governance Documents

EPA

Related Policies

Related Procedures

  • None

Related Standards

  • None

Related Guidance

  • None

Non-EPA

Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1980, as amended in 1995, requires agencies to provide for the dissemination of public information on a timely basis, on equitable terms, and in a manner that promotes the utility of the information to the public and makes effective use of information technology.

OMB Bulletin 95-01, Establishment of Government Information Locator Service (GILS), December 7, 1994, is designed to help the public and agencies locate and access information electronically throughout the U.S. government.

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Full Metadata about this standard

Name Ensuring Access to EPA Information on EPA Servers
Type Procedure
Required or Recommended Required 
Effective date 10/10/2006
Date approved 02/11/2008
Category Area Setup
Web Council review by 02/11/2010 (or earlier if deemed necessary by the Web Council) 
Governing Policy Web Governance and Management (PDF) Intranet(5 pp, 339K, About PDF)