Sen. Vitter: EPA’s release of Lisa Jackson’s alias emails ‘fishy’

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter is calling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s release of more than 2,100 of outgoing Chief Administrator Lisa Jackson’s emails “fishy” and arguing that the EPA improperly redacted names in the emails.

“This strikes me as incredibly fishy and begs a number of important questions,” Vitter said in a statement. “The EPA needs to honor the president’s pledge of transparency and release these documents without redaction of the administrator’s email address – a big first step toward removing the blanket of secrecy in this agency.”

The EPA redacted the email address used by Jackson in the released emails under an exemption which only is used to protect personal privacy — meaning it doesn’t apply Jackson’s work email address. Vitter also notes that the EPA has used a different Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption to redact Jackson’s alias account in released documents.

The EPA told the House Science Committee that for more than a decade EPA Administrators have been assigned two official emails — a public account and an internal account.

“The internal account is an everyday, working email account of the administrator to communicate with staff and other government officials,” the agency said, adding that the large number of emails sent to the public account makes “the internal email account is necessary for effective management and communication between the administrator and agency colleagues.”

When Jackson was asked about the use of a secondary email account in a recent interview with NOLA.com, one of her aides interrupted and said that she already responded to the issue.

“Given the large volume of emails sent to the public account — more than 1.5 million in fiscal year 2012, for instance — the internal email account is necessary for effective management and communication between the administrator and agency colleagues,” the EPA said in a statement about the secondary account. “In the case of Freedom of Information Act requests, both the public and internal accounts are reviewed for responsive records and responsive records from both accounts are provided to FOIA requesters.”

“EPA’s supposed reliance on ‘precedent’ is especially misleading because they’re clearly using a separate and distinct practice than previous administrations. And if ‘Richard Windsor’ is no more than a standard work email account, why not share the unredacted versions and prove it to the American public?” asked Vitter.

EPA released the first round of Jackson’s emails on Monday in response to a lawsuit filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute that concerned Jackson’s use of an “alias” email account — under the name “Richard Windsor” — to conceal her communications from public disclosure.

The suit sought access to messages from Jackson’s alternate email account using the terms “coal,” “climate,” “endanger,” or “MACT”.

Though some reports say that Jackson over differences with Obama Administration with regards to the Keystone Pipeline, Sen. Vitter says that scrutiny over Jackson’s use of an “alias” email account most likely spurred her resignation.

“I think this email issue clearly spurred Lisa Jackson’s resignation,” Vitter said. “But it’s much broader than her. It’s about a culture of hiding an extreme agenda from Americans because it can’t be sustained in public debate. I’ll fight aggressively to end these practices, which I fear are very widespread.”

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