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Top EPA official used private email account to correspond with environmental groups

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Top EPA official used private email account to correspond with environmental groups

A second Environmental Protection Agency official stands accused of using a personal email address to shield communications with environmental activists from public disclosure.

Court documents show that EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin corresponded with the Environmental Defense Fund — where he previously worked as an attorney — through his private email account.

The emails were communications between Martin’s private Apple “me.com” account and Vickie Patton, general counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The EPA released 19 emails as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in May. In September, CEI filed a lawsuit against the EPA, seeking to compel the agency to turn over emails between Martin and the EDF.

CEI requested emails sent to and from any account that Martin used for work-related purposes. Almost all of the emails received by CEI are messages to Martin’s email account, and only two of the emails show outgoing messages from Martin to Patton.

One email — number 6, from Dec. 5, 2011 — appears to have scheduled a meeting between Martin and Patton. In another email — number 17, from April 11, 2012 — Martin asks for the contact information of Patton’s “guy” in New York State government.

“Hi Jim, Next Monday or Tuesday December 12/13 at 9am depending on which is best for you,” says email number 6, between Martin and Patton.

“January 13 at 9:00 am works for me if that works for you. (Lost your original note – is that the date and time you proposed?)” Martin replied.

“Vickie — having a hard time managing my email. Seem to have lost the contact info for your guy in the [redacted] administration. Could you re-send?” says one email from Martin to Patton. The contact the message refers to may be in the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Martin says in a supplemental declaration to CEI’s FOIA request that the contact refers to someone in the New York State government who had expressed interest in learning about Martin’s time as a state official.

According to court documents, Martin said he never used his personal account to conduct official business.

However, the released emails show two “email blasts” to Martin regarding EPA action concerning Navajo Nation. And another email forwarded by Patton concerns presentations that Martin might be interested in about an EPA rule and government support of clean coal technology.

Five of the emails that were forwarded to Martin’s private account were sent from Patton as an “fyi,” and concerned possible congressional action on EPA standards.

“With the exception of email #6, I did not take any action on these emails sent to my personal email account or otherwise rely on these emails in furtherance of EPA business,” Martin said in his supplemental declaration.

Martin has previously used private accounts while in government. He created at least two private Gmail accounts while he was a state regulator in Colorado, according to court documents.

In those documents, Martin said he created the accounts “for the purpose of allowing effective communication using mobile devices,” and he says that the Gmail accounts were created so that state employees could “convey messages that would otherwise be unreadable.”

CEI sent test messages to both of these emails to see if they were still active. Neither test message bounced back — meaning both accounts were still active. It is unclear whether they are still in use by Martin.