EPA Administrator’s Non-Public Emails Called ‘Deeply Troubling’

Elizabeth Harrington | January 15, 2013 | 7:21am EST
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EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

(Update: CEI's Chris Horner tells CNSNews.com the next step is a meeting with Justice Department officials: "We will ask them to right EPA's ship, and if they do not agree, we will ask the court," he said. Horner says he wants a "straight answer" to a direct question: Did the EPA, as part of a FOIA request, search the "Richard Windsor" email accounts? Richard Windsor is the alias used by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, apparently to shield some official communications from public view.)

(CNSNews.com) – Complying with a court order minutes before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday released 2,100 emails received or sent by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on one of her non-public accounts. But which one? The name on the email account was redacted.

The information provided by the EPA under court order doesn’t satisfy the man who discovered that Jackson has been using the alias “Richard Windsor” on an email account from which she may have sent messages on the administration's coal policy. Using the alias would shield those communications from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Chris Horner of the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute says he discovered Jackson's "false identity" while doing research for his book, "The Liberal War on Transparency.”

Late Monday, Horner called the EPA’s document release “deeply troubling.”

“[It] seems to have gravely compounded the unlawful activity we have exposed involving a false identity assumed for federal recordkeeping purposes,” he said.

Jackson admitted to using the fake identity “Richard Windsor” in November. Citing high email traffic in her public account (jackson.lisap@epa.gov), the EPA said Jackson used the Richard Windsor alias to communicate with other public officials.   (Jackson announced her resignation as EPA administrator on Dec. 27, saying she is ready for "new challenges.")

Horner said he is dissatisfied with the 2,100 emails the EPA finally delivered to him on Monday. First of all, that number is well short of the promised 3,000, he said.

Furthermore, Horner said he doubts that the emails, which contain the keywords “coal, climate, endanger, and MACT” [Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards], are from the “Richard Windsor” account.

In its response to Horner, the EPA stated that the emails it released in response to Horner’s FOIA request are from “one secondary official account to conduct EPA business.”

Horner also says the emails are a bunch of nothing: “Perhaps seeking to take the air out of a growing scandal, EPA’s defective compilation boasts an impressively anemic content-to-volume ratio. It starts with Washington Post daily news briefs, then follows with Google alerts for “Lisa Jackson EPA” (none for “Richard Windsor”). Then EPA HQ national news clips. And so on. Rope a dope. Clever. Maybe too much so.”

Horner said the EPA apparently decided it “had to produce a lot of something. Desperate to produce nothing at the same time, it came up with this.”

In its cover letter, the EPA says Jackson uses only one secondary official account to conduct EPA business, then says the emails released on Monday come from that one account. But Horner says it’s clear that Jackson has at least two secondary or “alias” accounts: one showing her name in the sent to/from box; and another one that uses the false identity “Richard Windsor.”

“So EPA has some explaining to do,” Horner said on Monday.

“Staking out the position Jackson used only one secondary account signals the agency has gone bunker,” Horner said. “Rather than search or produce from the Richard Windsor account, it is more likely the agency intends to in essence pretend it does not exist.”

Horner said it looks like the EPA fears the fallout of revealing “Richard Windsor's” correspondence, suggesting “it truly has much to hide.”

The release Monday marks only the first batch of the 12,000 emails that will be made public as a result of the CEI v. EPA lawsuit.  Though dissatisfied with the initial release, Horner showed no sign of lessening his pursuit.

“This is both deeply distressing yet entirely consistent with their approach throughout,” he said.  “But then again, frankly, what did you expect from a gang caught using false identity for federal record-keeping purposes? To just say 'you caught me; now I'll come clean?'”

UPDATE, 1/15/13: The CEI meanwhile argues the facts call this into question, providing several copies of internal emails sent to EPA staff from Jackson's traditional secondary account. CEI notes that the emails just produced by EPA resemble these, and not the copies of actual Richard Windsor emails they possess. CEI also says that, regardless, together these also establish Jackson had more than one secondary or alias account.

UPDATE, 1/15/13: An EPA official told CNSNews.com that the emails released are from the “Richard Windsor” alias account, and that Lisa Jackson did not use any other secondary email addresses.  “Richard Windsor” has been redacted from the emails, replaced with “administrator.”  The EPA said this is only the first group of emails to be released, and the agency will continue to process “Richard Windsor” emails relevant to the FOIA request.

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