WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a report affirming the widespread use of private email accounts among senior Environmental Protection Agency officials, findings first revealed in a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and related litigation. The report raises serious concerns about the EPA’s compliance with FOIA and congressional oversight requests, and about the EPA Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) previous investigation into the issue.
“Under congressional pressure following CEI’s FOIA revelations, an OIG investigation last September concluded that there was no evidence these individuals used private email to circumvent federal recordkeeping responsibilities. That investigation was ‘based only on conversations with these senior officials’ identified as having used private accounts for work,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner, who filed the FOIAs that indicated the EPA was using unofficial email accounts that were not being searched for FOIA and other oversight requests. “Today’s announcement, in addition to our own findings, makes a mockery of the OIG’s determination, and its supposed clearing of the EPA. Only willful blindness could lead to such an absurd conclusion.”
Although EPA officials, like Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, denied use of private email accounts for business purposes to the EPA’s Office of Inspector General, just this week the EPA produced more than 150 megabytes of supposedly non-existent, EPA-related emails from Blumenfeld’s Comcast account, said Horner.
“Blumenfeld is only one of numerous officials whose use of private email accounts CEI uncovered. Others include former Region 8 Administrator James Martin, who has since resigned, and current Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, whose account appears to be the same one she used during previous work at an environmental pressure group,” said Horner. “So far, emails from these types of accounts have revealed relationships between EPA officials and special interest groups that are far too close for comfort.”
NOTE: Horner has filed a FOIA request for Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck’s use of a private email account, but to date the EPA has repeatedly delayed responding for a variety of asserted reasons.