Watchdog to probe EPA email preservation

Watchdog to probe EPA email preservation
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog is looking into how the agency preserves email and text messages sent and received by employees.

The project, announced Friday by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General, came in response to Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Full interview: Democratic candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris discusses her Senate campaign in Delaware MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Anti-Trump protesters hold candlelight vigil by White House Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-Ore.), who asked for an investigation into revelations that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke left some details off public calendar: report EPA watchdog faults ‘management weaknesses’ in Flint water crisis House completes first half of 2019 spending bills MORE has four email addresses.

Investigators plan to look into both preservation systems and policies, as well as what those policies mean for how the EPA responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The anticipated benefits of this project are ensuring the effectiveness of EPA processes for preserving electronic records and responding to FOIA requests,” the inspector general said.

Inspector General Arthur Elkins first told Carper and Merkley earlier this week that he had accepted their request to probe Pruitt’s email setup.

The senators had discovered that the EPA had five email addresses for Pruitt: one public, one in the standard EPA format, one for use in calendars, one for Pruitt to use for communication and one that was never used beyond three test emails.

Democrats say the setup raises the possibility that the EPA is hiding Pruitt’s correspondence, and that workers responding to FOIA requests do not search in all of his addresses.

But the EPA has defended the practice as standard among EPA administrators and other high-profile government officials.

“All accounts are searched before we respond to the FOIA request,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

The EPA confirmed that statement in a letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoRepublican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline Overnight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Senate adds members to pro-NATO group MORE (R-Wyo.) when he probed the email setup.