Report: Obama’s EPA has a culture of ‘secrecy and evasion’

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

What does the Environmental Protection Agency have to hide from the public? That is the question Senate Republicans asked in a recently released report alleging a culture of “secrecy and evasion” within the agency since President Obama took office.

“The Obama Administration has advanced the most aggressive, far-left environmental agenda ever and developed the most secretive, behind-closed-doors way of doing it.  And that’s not by accident,” said Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The report details instances where the EPA “has purposefully been unresponsive to [Freedom of Information Act] requests, oftentimes redacting information the public has a right to know; and mismanaged its electronic records system such that federal records have been jeopardized.” Moreover, Republicans took special aim at the use of alias and private email accounts by top agency officials to conduct official business.

“The Committee’s investigation reveals that under the leadership of Lisa P. Jackson, EPA developed a culture of secrecy and evasion, which has since allowed them to hide their actions from the public and from Congress,” reads the report by committee Republicans.

“[T]he Agency has steadfastly ignored its constitutional obligation to subject itself to Congressional oversight, apparently in an effort to prevent the public from knowing what is going on behind closed doors.”

Last year, The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson was using an alias email account under the name “Richard Windsor.” Further reporting revealed that she also used that account to correspond with environmental activists.

Jackson’s alias account was discovered by Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Chris Horner, who learned of the existence of the alias email while writing a book.

“By now, in a rational world, the continuing efforts to dismiss these clear outrages would be shamed into demands for full disclosure and accountability,” Horner told TheDCNF. “Then again, there are reasons the administration has taken so many, often unlawful and it appears possibly criminal steps to keep what they’re up to from prying taxpayer eyes.”

However, Senate Democrats downplayed Jackson’s use of an official email account by pointing out that former EPA administrators also used alias email accounts. Furthermore, the EPA had previously argued that EPA administrators are assigned two agency email accounts: a public one and an internal one. This is to handle the high volume of emails the administrator’s account is bombarded with every year.

Republicans countered that Jackson used a whole different identity and violated federal records law.

“EPA’s policy requires email records to include transmission data that identifies the sender and the recipient(s)… However, these essential elements are clearly missing on emails sent and received by ‘Richard Windsor,’ since Windsor is fictitious,” reads the Senate Republican’s report. “In addition to violating internal records policy, Jackson’s alias account took on an identity separate from the Administrator herself.”

Other top EPA officials were also caught using non-official emails to conduct agency business. TheDCNF reported that former EPA Region 8 administrator James Martin was using his private email account to correspond with an attorney from the Natural Resources Defense Council regarding official business. Martin soon resigned after this report led to congressional inquiry.

It was subsequently discovered that EPA deputy administrator Bob Perciasepe had also used a private email account to conduct official business. According to Republicans, EPA Region 9 administrator Jared Blumenfeld may have also been using his private email account.

“We still need a heck of a lot more transparency and accountability to make a difference in stopping an agenda that could put our economy further in trouble,” Vitter added. “Hard-working Americans deserve to know exactly what’s being proposed, how the Administration is deriving their proposals, and the impacts EPA’s red tape will have on the environment, as well as energy prices and jobs.”

Transparency issues delayed Gina McCarthy’s confirmation as head of EPA.

McCarthy’s nomination was finally allowed to proceed once the agency agreed to five transparency reforms suggested by Republicans, which included producing any emails McCarthy had sent from her private account regarding official agency business.

“Ultimately, the purpose of using secret emails, personal emails, applying excessive redactions to documents released via FOIA, and erecting other barriers to transparency is to avoid scrutiny and accountability,” according to the Republican’s report. “While in some instances the Agency has begrudgingly admitted their mistakes, the culture of secrecy runs deep, and it will take the proactive intervention of EPA’s new leadership to right the ship and require the transparency the President promised the American people.”

The EPA did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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Tags : david vitter environmental protection agency gina mccarthy lisa jackson
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