“The use of personal, non-official e-mail accounts raises concerns that you could be attempting to insulate this and other e-mail correspondence from a Freedom of Information Act request. Moreover, your actions may also constitute violation of the Federal Records Act,” the lawmakers wrote to Martin, whose region includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and 27 tribal nations.
Martin’s communications are of interest to Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Vitter, ranking member for the Senate Environment Committee, because he heads an area that includes Pavillion, Wyo. EPA published a December 2011 draft report on two hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells in that town in what became the first federal link between the drilling method and potential groundwater contamination.
Vitter and Issa asked Martin to hand over all emails to and from his private account dating back to April 1, 2010, so as to “better understand whether or not the emails provided to our Committees are an unfortunate, but isolated incident, or if they are part of a larger scheme to defeat federal transparency laws.”
Vitter already has devoted attention to EPA’s Pavillion study in his first weeks as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Republican, a sign that he intends to make good on promises to focus on fracking.
The draft study, for which EPA has delayed the comment period three times, has fueled the debate on fracking.
Fracking is a process that injects a high-pressure combination of water, chemicals and sand into tight-rock formations to unleash hard-to-reach hydrocarbons. It has been credited with driving the domestic oil-and-gas boom, but also has invited public health concerns from activists.
While EPA noted the fracking wells in that study were atypical, green groups used the Pavillion report as validation of their fears that the method pollutes drinking water.
Industry and predominantly GOP lawmakers have questioned the study, and said EPA based its results on flawed science.
Specifically, they contend EPA failed to account for naturally occurring contaminants in the two wells. And fracking supporters point to a more recent U.S. Geological Survey assessment that invalidated one of the two wells for yielding too small of a water sample.