U.S. EPA officials late yesterday released more than 2,100 emails in response to the ongoing controversy surrounding Administrator Lisa Jackson's use of an alternative email account that allowed her to conduct official agency business under the alias Richard Windsor.
But a free-market public policy group last night blasted the agency for releasing a slew of filler and non-relevant emails in an attempt to stonewall efforts to shed light on how and why Jackson used an alias email address.
The 2,100 emails were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act case brought by Christopher Horner, a senior fellow in the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), who first discovered the use of the alternative email address last year.
Horner has charged that such an alias email address circumvents federal records management requirements and has sought access to certain emails from the secondary account. Horner's concerns have been echoed by multiple House committees and good governance groups.
Last month, EPA's own inspector general opened an investigation into the management and use of the secondary account (Greenwire, Dec. 17, 2012).
In a cover letter included in yesterday's document release, the director of EPA's record management office acknowledged that Jackson uses a secondary official government email account to conduct EPA business but noted that the account's contents "are maintained in accordance with federal recordkeeping guidelines and are searched in response to FOIA requests."
EPA officials have previously said that given the large volume of emails sent to Jackson's public account -- more than 1.5 million communications in fiscal 2012 -- the internal email account is necessary for effective management and communication between the administrator and agency colleagues. The agency has said that the practice has been a long-standing one for agency administrators.
Jackson's internal account used the name Richard Windsor, a combination of the name of a family pet and East Windsor, N.J., a town where she lived.
Horner noted in a release from CEI last night that the name Richard Windsor is absent from yesterday's email release.
The cover letter from EPA notes that the name on the account for which the agency was providing emails had been redacted and marked simply "administrator" in order to "preserve the ongoing utility of the email account and to clearly identify the records as being to or from the Administrator."
Horner also said yesterday that the FOIA response was filled with news clippings and Google alerts that include the terms "Lisa Jackson" and "EPA" but not the term "Richard Windsor."
"It seems EPA simply decided it had to produce a lot of something. Desperate to produce nothing at the same time, it came up with this," Horner said. "But in the details, the desperation shows through."
Horner said that rather than search or produce emails from the Richard Windsor account, it now seems that the agency intends to pretend the account does not exist.
"This presents EPA with a fork in the road: Burrow deeper into the bunker, and interpret that this request sought only the secondary account that shows Jackson's name, or come clean and search her various non-public, alias accounts," he said.