EPA Delays Release of Jackson Emails After White House Review

Issa subpoenas EPA for records

November 11, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency delayed releasing emails from former administrator Lisa Jackson’s secret account to congressional investigators after conferring with the White House, top Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Senate Committee on Environment and Public works said.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) in a letter released Friday subpoenaed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for emails with White House officials regarding the agency’s response to congressional requests.

"Troubling information has recently been brought to my attention that raises questions about the reasons for EPA's lack of cooperation with the Committee," Issa wrote. "An email produced in response to a FOIA requests from a non-profit group suggests that the White House may have played a role in EPA withholding information from Congress."

Issa and Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) sent a letter to McCarthy in April requesting correspondence between her and former EPA Administrator Jackson, who used a secret email account under the alias "Richard Windsor."

According to the Oversight Committee, the EPA identified 106 emails, but six months later, it has yet to release them to the committee.

In a June 13 email obtained by the nonprofit watchdog group Cause of Action, Kevin Minoli, a member of the EPA’s general counsel office, wrote to White House Special Assistant to the President Daniel Dominguez seeking input on releasing the emails.

"Folks here would like to send up a second set of documents in response to the attachment to the Issa/Vitter April 10th letter that has a list of 106 documents they want in unredacted form," Minoli wrote.

The emails include correspondence among current EPA Administrator McCarthy, former administrator Jackson, and other senior EPA officials.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.

"The most non-transparent administration in history has proven itself yet again," Vitter said in a statement. "After the email to the White House, EPA’s behavior suspiciously makes a U-turn in their willingness to cooperate and provide these documents to Congress."

During McCarthy’s nomination hearing earlier this year, Vitter secured five transparency concessions from the agency. One was for the emails in question.

However, Vitter said the documents were never fully released.

"This goes against transparency laws, and also goes against Gina McCarthy’s word she gave us during her confirmation process this summer," Vitter said. "Whatever is in these emails, the Obama Administration is sure going to great lengths to keep it hidden."

As previously reported by the Free Beacon, Jackson’s secret "Richard Windsor" account raised concerns among transparency advocates that the agency was skirting federal record law and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

A widening probe by watchdog groups and the oversight committee revealed several high-level EPA officials using their private email addresses for government business. Jackson also used her home email account to correspond with a lobbyist for a multinational company.

Conservative groups also alleged their FOIA requests were subjected to unfair and disparate treatment by the EPA.

An EPA Inspector General report released in September said senior agency officials did not intentionally skirt federal record law. However, the report found a lack of training on records management at the agency.

Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in September, Jackson said she never intentionally skirted records laws.

"I have come to accept that there are those who will second-guess the judgments that I made or question the motives behind those judgments," Jackson said. "The principle reason I wanted to come here today is to make it perfectly clear that it was my practice to ensure that any official business conducted by me or through my email accounts was appropriately captured for record keeping purposes."

Jackson, who is now the chief environmental officer at Apple, declined to be interviewed for the report, according to the EPA Inspector General.