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 CarperTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site Warren wants companies to disclose more about climate change impacts DHS transferred about 0M from separate agencies to ICE this year: report MORE (D-Ore.), who asked for an investigation into revelations that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas 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 BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) when he probed the email setup.