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 CarperHillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane MORE (D-Ore.), who asked for an investigation into revelations that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change 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.

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“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 BarrassoSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana MORE (R-Wyo.) when he probed the email setup.