EPA covert email system scandal deepens

Something is very rotten at the Environmental Protection Agency, and you can tell because they are resisting full disclosure of the communications that took place illegally.  The EPA imposes enormous costs on the economy through use of its bureaucratic discretion, so a scandal in which the agency illegally impeded public access to its official communications is serious. There is potential for major abuse.

Last Friday, under court order, the agency released a tranche of 1,200 pages in response to a lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Chris Horner of the CEI uncovered the first sign of the secret communications channel when he was researching his book, "The Liberal War On Transparency," when he came across emails to and from "Richard Windsor" that were in fact from Jackson. Jackson resigned her post in December last year when a court ordered her to release all Richard Windsor emails.  By using an alias, these emails were not discoverable in Freedom of Information Act Inquiries, and in violation of the law.

Now the scandal has spread. Mark Flatten of the Examiner:

Newly disclosed documents show the acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used a private email account to conduct official business, the same practice that contributed to the downfall of his predecessor.

Bob Perciasepe, acting administrator of the EPA, sent at least one business email using a personal account in July 2010, according to a trove of more than 1,200 pages of documents released Friday by the agency under court order.

While the email merely forwarded an article about the agency, it shows that Perciasepe was using a private account for official business, an apparent violation of the federal transparency laws and regulations that require official email accounts to be used on government matters.

Failing to do so could result in the illegal emails not being produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The latest email release from EPA also shows that Perciasepe was communicating with "Richard Windsor," the phony name used by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to shield official emails from public release under the FOIA.

Moreover, the emails released were heavily redacted. CEI reports:

...nearly 95 percent of the correspondence from the administrator and more than 80 percent of the email sent to 'Richard Windsor' - excluding news stories available to the public - were redacted despite claims by President Obama his was the most transparent administration ever. The agency claimed "Exception 5" - which allows agencies to exempt "deliberative" exchanges with senior staff - for more than 85 percent of the redactions.

Some revelations did occur. In one email, the administrator admits she has little familiarity with the debate surrounding fracking. And there was this Christmas poem from an EPA employee:

Coal Ash Regs Are Comin' To Town

She's making a list,

Priority: High,

Gonna find out who's wet or dry.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

----------

Yes, Lisa Jackson,

Is making all haste,

EPA's cracking down, On combustion waste.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

----------

She knows which landfill's leaching,

She knows which pond might break,

She knows they all lack liners,

Close 'em down, for goodness sake!

----------

One-thirty million tons,

Ev-ery year,

Spew from coal plants, Far and near.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

----------

So, you better watch out,

Coal waste fly,

A high hazard, Either wet or dry.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

If a key Bush cabinet agency had been caught illegally conducting sensitive policy discussions on a covert email system, not subject to scrutiny, the media would be calling it a "secret government" plot or even a "new Watergate." But Administrator Lisa Jackson and other officials at the Environmental Protection Agency have been caught doing just that, and the ripples do not extend into the mainstream media. Not yet anyway.

The GOP should be demanding full release of the illegal correspondence and holding Obama to his self-proclaimed commitment to transparency.

Something is very rotten at the Environmental Protection Agency, and you can tell because they are resisting full disclosure of the communications that took place illegally.  The EPA imposes enormous costs on the economy through use of its bureaucratic discretion, so a scandal in which the agency illegally impeded public access to its official communications is serious. There is potential for major abuse.

Last Friday, under court order, the agency released a tranche of 1,200 pages in response to a lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Chris Horner of the CEI uncovered the first sign of the secret communications channel when he was researching his book, "The Liberal War On Transparency," when he came across emails to and from "Richard Windsor" that were in fact from Jackson. Jackson resigned her post in December last year when a court ordered her to release all Richard Windsor emails.  By using an alias, these emails were not discoverable in Freedom of Information Act Inquiries, and in violation of the law.

Now the scandal has spread. Mark Flatten of the Examiner:

Newly disclosed documents show the acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used a private email account to conduct official business, the same practice that contributed to the downfall of his predecessor.

Bob Perciasepe, acting administrator of the EPA, sent at least one business email using a personal account in July 2010, according to a trove of more than 1,200 pages of documents released Friday by the agency under court order.

While the email merely forwarded an article about the agency, it shows that Perciasepe was using a private account for official business, an apparent violation of the federal transparency laws and regulations that require official email accounts to be used on government matters.

Failing to do so could result in the illegal emails not being produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The latest email release from EPA also shows that Perciasepe was communicating with "Richard Windsor," the phony name used by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to shield official emails from public release under the FOIA.

Moreover, the emails released were heavily redacted. CEI reports:

...nearly 95 percent of the correspondence from the administrator and more than 80 percent of the email sent to 'Richard Windsor' - excluding news stories available to the public - were redacted despite claims by President Obama his was the most transparent administration ever. The agency claimed "Exception 5" - which allows agencies to exempt "deliberative" exchanges with senior staff - for more than 85 percent of the redactions.

Some revelations did occur. In one email, the administrator admits she has little familiarity with the debate surrounding fracking. And there was this Christmas poem from an EPA employee:

Coal Ash Regs Are Comin' To Town

She's making a list,

Priority: High,

Gonna find out who's wet or dry.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

----------

Yes, Lisa Jackson,

Is making all haste,

EPA's cracking down, On combustion waste.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

----------

She knows which landfill's leaching,

She knows which pond might break,

She knows they all lack liners,

Close 'em down, for goodness sake!

----------

One-thirty million tons,

Ev-ery year,

Spew from coal plants, Far and near.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

----------

So, you better watch out,

Coal waste fly,

A high hazard, Either wet or dry.

Coal ash regs are comin' to town!

If a key Bush cabinet agency had been caught illegally conducting sensitive policy discussions on a covert email system, not subject to scrutiny, the media would be calling it a "secret government" plot or even a "new Watergate." But Administrator Lisa Jackson and other officials at the Environmental Protection Agency have been caught doing just that, and the ripples do not extend into the mainstream media. Not yet anyway.

The GOP should be demanding full release of the illegal correspondence and holding Obama to his self-proclaimed commitment to transparency.

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