It pays to know people in charge, especially if they are federal regulators. Emails suggest that an Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator used a private AOL email account to correspond with environmentalists.
Such email use is prohibited by agency rules and is seen as a way to skirt transparency requirements.
Emails show that EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck gave advice to environmental activists, including securing government funding, getting meetings with high-level officials and attending events.
“Here again we see a senior EPA appointee drawn from the ranks of green pressure groups using private email accounts for certain work-related correspondence, even their same email account the greens know to contact them on and still do,” Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Chris Horner, whose Freedom of Information Act request turned up Enck’s emails, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Enck was made regional administrator in 2009 under President Obama after spending years working as an environmental activist, including working on environmental issues for the liberal advocacy group New York Public Interest Research Group. EPA’s Region 2 encompasses New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven Native American tribal nations.
While serving as a top EPA official, Enck used her private “aol.com” email address to correspond with environmentalists. Emails suggest that she gave activists advice on how to get government funding, get the attention of top EPA officials and attending events.
On July 23, 2010, Miriam Gordon, the California state director of Clean Water Action (CWA), asked Enck if she could help get her on the guest list for an EPA event where various NGOs, local businesses and local governments were talking about financing local recycling efforts. Gordon saw this as a good opportunity to showcase what CWA has been working on and asked Enck to get her invited to the event.
Enck obliged the next day, “I will call [EPA senior policy advisor Sara Willis Hartwell] and try to get you (and me) invited. thanks! hope all is well.”
Gordon sent another email to Enck on June 12, 2011 asking for some “advice”. Gordon told Enck about an EPA grant she was unhappy about not getting, citing the process as “discretionary and frankly unfair”. She was hoping to get the EPA to change their decision and award her funding by meeting with the Region 9 administrator Jared Blumenthal and other agency officials.
Gordon asked Enck if she should “discuss this with Jared if I get the meeting. Should I call the director of Solid Waste first?”
“yes and yes,” Enck replied later that day. “the way you get a meeting is by keep calling. also, you can email him at…”
Another June 12, 2011 email Gordon asks who would be a EPA contact to get “a huge estuary” designated as a federal Superfund site — where the federal government commits to having hazardous waste areas cleaned up.
Enck replies that Gordon should talk to “whoever heads up the region 9 superfund program” and directs her towards Keith, Blumenthal’s “deputy”, saying he “is also a good guy and has superfund experience.”
Enck also mentioned the documentary “Bag It”, which advocates recycling and lowering the use of plastics in everyday life. Enck says, “I will oe in fact your son [called Adam] will order 3 copies of the bagit movie to circulate around epa. I am determined to get dc folks to watch it.”
Enck is not the only top EPA official Horner has caught using a private email account. In late 2012, TheDCNF reported that former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson used a secret email account under the alias “Richard Windsor” to correspond with government officials and environmentalists.
It was later revealed that former EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin used his private email account to correspond with environmentalist lawyer Vicky Patton, who is counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund. Martin resigned after Congress launched an investigation into his activities. Subsequent reports revealed that former EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe used a private email account, as did Jared Blumenthal, acting administrator for EPA’s Region 9.
“These emails are unlawfully left under their sole control, subject to selective or even wholesale destruction, by people who chose to move or leave some of their government work off-line,” Horner said. “From ‘Richard Windsor’ and Lisa Jackson’s Verizon account to every regional administrator we’ve looked into, this pattern raises serious questions whether the entire regulatory record of Obama’s EPA is legally defective.”
In another set of emails, Janet Enck corresponds with Katherine Hudson of the New York environmentalist group Riverkeeper. The email chain is cut off, but a May 7, 2011 email from Enck says “im working on it” — the subject of the email was a news report from Greenwire about Pennsylvania natural gas wells.
Hudson responded on May 10, 2011, “Thank you!! Will you be in Great Swamp tomorrow AM in Brewster? Trying to decide whether I should attend?”
Enck responded later that day, “yes. I will be at the great swamp. Come join us for a canoe and kayak ride after the news conference.”
The EPA did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
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