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 CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Democratic senator on Trump's 'treason' comments about whistleblower: 'I worry about threats on his or her life' Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (D-Ore.), who asked for an investigation into revelations that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSierra Club sues EPA over claim that climate change 'is 50 to 75 years out' EPA on 'forever chemicals': Let them drink polluted water EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' 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 BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.) when he probed the email setup.