EPA emails under internal probe

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog is looking into whether the agency uses separate internal email accounts to conduct government affairs.

Its office of the inspector general wants to know whether the agency’s email practices comply with federal laws. The concern is whether correspondence through internal accounts would show up in a search for federal records.

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“Our objective is to determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business,” said the inspector general memo, which was made public Monday.

EPA’s inspector general said the audit follows on a congressional request. Some lawmakers have pressed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for answers on her alleged use of a separate internal email account under the alias “Richard Windsor.”

EPA told The Hill that the agency has had separate internal email accounts for the past decade. It said all correspondence from those accounts is included in records requests.

"EPA welcomes the investigation because there is nothing to hide," the agency told The Hill on Monday.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans last week asked Jackson for more information about the possible internal accounts.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Oversight and Investigations subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) want to know how those accounts are used, if they exist.

"As noted in our letter, we have concerns these email aliases may compromise the agency’s transparency. While we welcome this investigation from the IG, the committee is still awaiting direct answers from EPA,” Stearns said in a Monday statement to The Hill.

Melanie Sloan, executive director with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Hill that the separate accounts might not be limited to the EPA.

Sloan said her group has sent Freedom of Information Act requests to several other federal agencies about possible use of separate email accounts.

“I expect this to be shut down and for the administrator to no longer maintain a non-identifiable email account. And I think there’s a question now of whether other agencies do this,” Sloan said.