Smith, Issa & Vitter Expose EPA’s Attempt to Hide Emails, Call for Further Investigation

Feb 7, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Today, a group of top Republicans asserted that the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is inappropriately using an exemption clause in the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to hide the alias(es) used by the Administrator.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, along with U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, requested the EPA’s Inspector General to broaden an ongoing investigation into EPA’s email practices.

“Based on documents the Committees have obtained, EPA is clearly deviating from President Obama’s openness initiative and from the letter of the law.  It also appears that EPA is hiding information the public has a right to know in violation of Federal law,” wrote Reps. Smith, Issa and Sen. Vitter.  “Accordingly, we request that you broaden your current investigation to also determine whether EPA has abused its discretion in redacting the email account name, domain name, and server for Lisa Jackson’s alias email account.”

The EPA released some of the emails in question on January 15, but redacted the email address used by Administrator Lisa Jackson citing FOIA exemption 6 – a limited exemption only to be used to protect personal privacy. In this instance, the application of FOIA exemption 6 to a work email address for the EPA Administrator is not appropriate. Additionally, EPA has previously relied on a different FOIA exemption to redact the Administrator's alias account in other document productions.

In a letter to the EPA’s Inspector General Arthur Elkins, the Members of Congress ask him to broaden the IG’s current investigation to also determine whether EPA has abused its discretion in redacting the email account name, domain name, and server for Administrator Jackson’s alias email account(s).

A copy of the letter is available here.