Republicans threaten ‘formal action’ over EPA head’s ‘Richard Windsor’ emails

House Republicans are threatening “formal action” against the Environmental Protection Agency unless the agency hands over records about Administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of a secondary government email account.

Republicans allege that Jackson’s use of an internal account under the alias “Richard Windsor” undercuts the agency’s transparency.

Top Republicans on the Science, Space and Technology Committee sent the EPA a letter Thursday that says the agency has failed to comply properly with prior requests for records about use of “dual, secondary and non-public” email accounts by EPA officials.

The letter suggests a subpoena could be in the offing if lawmakers don’t get what they want, noting, “Failure to respond may result in formal action requiring EPA’s compliance.”

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“The American public deserves to know whether Administrator Jackson’s secret email accounts were appropriately maintained by the agency according to requirements by federal law,” Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement.

He said he’s suspicious that Jackson’s use of the secondary account was “intended to evade transparency and circumvent congressional oversight.”

The agency has rebutted such allegations.

Use of a second, internal government email account by EPA administrators goes back over a decade, and records for public and internal accounts are subject to public records requests, according to the EPA.

“The email address for the public account is posted on EPA's website and is used by hundreds of thousands of Americans to send messages to the Administrator. The internal account is an everyday, working email account of the Administrator to communicate with staff and other government officials,” the agency said in a recent statement.

“Given the large volume of emails sent to the public account — more than 1.5 million in fiscal year 2012, for instance — the internal email account is necessary for effective management and communication between the Administrator and agency colleagues,” the agency said.

The EPA, earlier in January, began turning over records from Jackson’s secondary account to the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which had sued the agency to obtain the records under the Freedom of Information Act.

The emails turned over thus far showed Jackson using the secondary account for routine matters, such as memos sent to all EPA staff and collections of news clippings.

But the CEI called the initial disclosure inadequate.