EPA watchdog announces new probe into Pruitt's emails

EPA watchdog announces new probe into Pruitt's emails
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general said it is investigating EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule MORE’s use of nonpublic email accounts, the latest in a series of federal investigations into the agency chief.

The inspector general, an independent office within the EPA, will look into whether Pruitt is keeping a record of his emails, as he is mandated to by federal law, and whether the EPA is searching all his accounts when fulfilling public records requests.

According to the EPA, there are three email accounts attributed to Pruitt that are used for administrative tasks.

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“The EPA maintains three email accounts which are attributed to Administrator Pruitt: two are used by staff for calendaring and public correspondence; the third is used by the Administrator. A fourth email account was created for use by the Administrator but was superseded and never used beyond three test emails,” EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox said.

Wilcox also noted that, when the EPA receives Freedom of Information Act request, “all accounts are searched before we respond to the FOIA request.”

Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Inhofe defends Pruitt after criticisms | Agency releases study on water contaminant | Trump rescinds Obama ocean policy Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate Overnight Energy: Senate panel sets Pruitt hearing | Colorado joins California with tougher emissions rules | Court sides with Trump on coal leasing program MORE (D-Del.) and Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems call for Judiciary hearing on Trump's 'zero tolerance' GOP lawmaker compares cages for migrant children to chain-link fences on playgrounds Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Ore.) — released a letter dated May 2 that confirmed the investigation.

Past EPA administrators also used nonpublic email accounts for everyday communication.

The latest probe comes as Pruitt faces scrutiny over ethical and spending controversies. It also ups the total number of federal investigations into the administrator’s behavior to a dozen.

Past controversies with Pruitt involved his high-cost travel, use of security personnel, and a $50-a-night condo he rented from the wife of an energy lobbyist whom he later met with.

In a letter responding to Merkley, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins said he does not know yet when the investigation into Pruitt’s email accounts would begin because of funding restraints.

This story was updated on May 16 at 10:40 a.m.