CEI Sues for EPA Administrator’s Secret Email Account, Related Records

Washington, D.C., October 1, 2012—The Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging its refusal to disclose information discussing the creation and use of “secondary” email accounts created for top level officials by EPA’s Office of Electronic Information. CEI also seeks certain emails from current Administrator Lisa Jackson’s account addressing the administration’s well-known ‘War on Coal’.

CEI first learned of these non-public accounts from a previous Freedom of Information Act request that it filed earlier in the year after reading of it in a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That request turned up a 2008 EPA memo to the National Archives and Records Administration revealing the existence of these little-known secondary email accounts created under Clinton-Gore administrator, and later Obama ‘energy and environment czar’ Carol Browner. The memo acknowledged that “[f]ew EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff, even know that these accounts exist,” and that it is unable to recreate most of the accounts’ usage histories.

On May 8, 2012, CEI filed three FOIAs seeking discussions about the creation and use of these accounts, and certain correspondence on the secondary email account assigned to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. But for nearly five months, EPA has produced no records in response to these requests. It has even argued that disclosure would not significantly inform the public of the activities or operations of government. All of this is in stark contrast to the claims repeatedly made by both EPA and the White House regarding the Administration’s supposed commitment to transparency.

“In the face of revelations about organized and systemic abuses by senior federal employees to hide from the public their activities, particularly their email, EPA has compounded matters, denying CEI’s requests,” said CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner, who revealed the memo in his just-released book, The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information “Criminal”. “We appealed this, won, and yet EPA has still provided no records, or any indication it plans to. The Agency left us no choice but to file suit.”

CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman stated, “For an agency committed to transparency, EPA is one incredibly opaque operation.”

>> Click here to read a copy of the complaint.