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Senators: EPA needs more transparency

In the wake of top Environmental Protection Agency officials using aliases and private email accounts to conduct official business, Republican senators are calling on Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe to live up to President Barack Obama’s promise to be the most transparent administration in history.

“We sincerely hope that as the current head of EPA, you will work toward fulfilling President Obama’s call for increased transparency in the operations of the federal government,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter and Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe wrote in a letter to Perciasepe. “Our purpose in outlining the following areas of concern is to draw your attention to the ongoing problem, which you now have the opportunity to correct.”

Reports show that two top EPA officials have been caught using private email accounts to conduct official business. In January, The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that EPA Region 8 administrator James Martin was corresponding with environmentalists using his private Apple “me.com” account.

Then, it was discovered through emails released by the EPA that Perciasepe was using a non-official “perciasepe.org” email account to conduct government business in at least one instance.

James Martin resigned this week “in part because of the open investigation about his use of a non-official email account to conduct official business,” according to Vitter. However, EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said Martin quit for “personal reasons.”

EPA records rules instruct employees to “not use any outside e-mail account to conduct official Agency business.”

“The use of private e-mail accounts for official business has been an issue in the past at the EPA, among other federal agencies,” Vitter and Inhofe said, adding that using non-official emails “will likely engender challenges to compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), litigation requests, and congressional requests.”

Transparency concerns within the EPA first surfaced after The DC News Foundation reported that former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was using an alias email account under the false identity — “Richard Windsor.”

This information was first learned by Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Chris Horner, who is the man behind the lawsuit that has forced the EPA to release emails from Jackson’s alias account.

However, the email releases have been criticized for being heavily redacted and improperly using FOIA exemptions to omit certain information.

“There’s a lot of information in these emails that warrant further investigations, but it is clear that EPA continues to abuse exemptions under FOIA law with significant redactions of information to avoid transparency,” Vitter said.

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