Energy

DOE Does Little To Stop Senior Officials From Using Private Emails

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

House Republicans are worried the Department of Energy (DOE) isn’t doing enough to keep officials from using private email accounts to conduct official business after the department’s chief admitted even he uses a private email account.

“In light of recent reports that you [Secretary Moniz], as well as other top Department officials, have used private e-mail to conduct official work business, the Committee remains concerned that Department employees could be communicating with third party groups poised to influence Department policies,” Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Committee members want DOE documents about how the agency is keeping top employees from improperly using private email accounts to conduct official business and avoiding public records laws. It’s currently illegal for government employees to conduct official business on personal accounts without forwarding those emails to their government email server. Republicans noted the DOE inspector general found “the Department is still not effectively managing its email records in accordance with federal requirements.”

Republicans’ request for records comes just hours after the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute announced it found more evidence top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were using private email accounts to collude with environmental activists.

“That it is a regular practice of senior officials of this EPA to use private email accounts and other ‘off-book’ techniques to craft rules with ‘green’ activists with clear financial and political interests is now clear beyond a reasonable doubt,” Chris Horner, an attorney with E&E Legal who’s been working for years to expose EPA collusion with activists, said in a statement.

Horner was behind exposing the secret email account used by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She used the fake name “Richard Windsor” for official agency business and as a way to avoid being snared in Freedom of Information Act requests.

A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation in 2013 found former EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin was using his private email account to collude with environmentalists. Martin resigned shortly after the news broke and Congress began investigating his activities.

It’s not just environmental regulators who have been caught using private email accounts in recent years. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being investigated by the FBI for using a private email server while working as America’s top diplomat. Investigators found Clinton sent and received classified emails using her private account.

The Associated Press reported in 2013 the heads of other executive branch agencies were also using private email accounts, including at the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services. TheDCNF found Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also used a private email account.

“The practice of using personal email accounts to conduct official business raises serious questions about the Department’s posture with respect to safeguarding government records and information,” Republicans wrote to Moniz.

“Given the Department’s work involving information that could be classified or otherwise sensitive, the potential exchange of such information through unsecured systems heightens the Committee’s concern that sensitive information could be subject to compromise or not captured in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) responses,” Republicans wrote.

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