Administration Continues to Hide McCarthy Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C., Mar. 16, 2013 –Since January, the Environmental Protection Agency has provided about 6,000 emails to the Competitive Enterprise Institute as part of a court-ordered plan to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. Remarkably absent are what should be the dominant class of records covered by our request seeking records: Gina McCarthy discussing her biggest assignment, the Obama administration’s “war on coal”.

>> See emails released by EPA on March 15 below.

McCarthy is the Assistant Administrator for Air, charged with implementing this agenda. Those emails from her that are not withheld in full by EPA are typically redacted in full. She will go before the Senate in coming weeks to seek to become EPA administrator.

For dozens of pages at a time, EPA withholds all the content of emails, claiming it need not reveal the contents because they were pre-decisional – discussions that are antecedent to the adoption of a formal agency policy, according to well-established law. Many clearly are not. They discuss press accounts of the agency’s work, documents that tell then-administrator Lisa Jackson what questions to expect in interviews and similar conversations that EPA would rather fight than allow the public to see.

EPA’s release on Friday was only a portion of the third of four tranches of emails. The agency has said it will release more emails this Tuesday, and then finalize what it is willing to produce, even if in completely blacked-out fashion, on April 15.

By court order EPA is to produce to CEI 12,000 emails that were the subject of a FOIA request for a investigation into the administration’s backdoor war on coal, subject to legitimate withholdings. To date, EPA is making plain it will force the court to review thousands of pages of withholdings. Its first tranche contained only about 2,100 emails – all Washington Post daily headline emails, Google alerts on coverage of the agency and a compendium of blogs produced by the EPA’s Washington office. The second tranche was equally short of 3,000 but contained actual emails, if again with abusive applications of FOIA exemptions for “deliberative process.”

“Email from McCarthy discussing her biggest task continues to be the dog that doesn’t bark,” said Christopher Horner, senior fellow at CEI, attorney and author of the book, “The Liberal War on Transparency,” research for which led to this investigation. “On this, we are to believe she had almost nothing to say. Possibly her contribution is found in her Oracle and IBM Sametime Instant Messages, which we also discovered EPA officials were using for sensitive discussions, a FOIA request for which EPA is completely stonewalling.

“The question is no longer whether they are hiding things, it’s what are they hiding now. And the answer apparently is: Whatever they have to hide to protect Ms. McCarthy’s nomination.

“You would think after having one administrator resign in disgrace over a false identity email account, the administration that claims to the most transparent ever would move quickly to demonstrate something resembling openness on her appointed successor’s records,” Horner said. “But the administration has decided to do exactly the opposite, and go even further to keep from the public what its top environmental officials are doing.”

>> EPA emails released on March 15, 2013:

Cover Letter

Part AA

Part BB1

Part BB2

Part CC

Part DD

Part EE

Part FF

Part GG1

Part GG2

Part HH