Two Democratic senators requested Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Inspector General investigate reports that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing EPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children MORE uses multiple email accounts to conduct business.
Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperIs the Biden administration afraid of trade? Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls Senate to try to pass 30-day highway bill Saturday after GOP objection MORE (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Manchin climate stance threatens to shatter infrastructure bargain Democratic appropriations bills would increase environmental funding by B MORE (D-Ore.), who also sits on the committee, asked for an investigation into Pruitt's use of three epa.gov email addresses in addition to his public government-issued address, warning that their use may not be in compliance with the Federal Records Act.
"Since early 2017, the EPA has received thousands of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public asking for email records, including those from Administrator Pruitt. With the use of multiple secret email accounts or addresses, we are concerned that the Office of the Administrator may be withholding information from the public in violation of valid FOIA requests," their letter reads.
The two said they first learned of Pruitt's use of multiple email accounts at the agency in December, when they were told there were three email addresses. Since then, they said they have been informed that he uses "at least four."
The agency later confirmed to The Hill the existence of three email accounts belonging to Pruitt, but said a fourth one that was created was no longer in use.
“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 A fourth email account was created for use by the Administrator but was superseded and never used beyond three test emails. When we receive a FOIA request all accounts are searched before we respond to the FOIA request," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox in a statement.
The EPA is facing a record number of FOIA requests under the Trump administration, which has in part led to an extreme backlog in response rates. Between Jan. 20, 2017, and the end of last year, 11,431 FOIA requests were filed to the EPA — an increase of about 17 percent compared to the same time period in former President Obama’s last year in office, a Project on Government Oversight report found.
The letter to the Inspector General was the first in a string of letters sent this week regarding Pruitt's practices.
A group of Democratic senators and House members, including Carper, sent a letter Thursday to both President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE and Pruitt requesting additional details surrounding Pruitt's expenses. The letter came after they interviewed a former EPA aid who was reportedly removed from his position for questioning Pruitt's spending.
Updated: 2:37 p.m.