A House committee has launched an investigation into whether EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an email alias to try to hide correspondence from open-government requests and her agency’s own internal watchdog — something that Republican lawmakers said could run afoul of the law.
The science committee has asked Ms. Jackson to turn over all information related to an email account under the name of “Richard Windsor,” which is one of the aliases identified by a researcher looking into the EPA.
The committee has also asked the White House’s lawyer and EPA’s inspector general to look into the matter and report back by the end of this month, saying that the secret email accounts could have been used to keep key information from official watchdogs as well as the public.
EPA did not respond Friday night to a request for comment.
The researcher who uncovered the “Richard Windsor” alias email, Christopher Horner, has repeatedly battled the administration over its global warming efforts.
Earlier this year he and his colleagues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued to demand the release of emails from “secondary” accounts from EPA, and cited a memo saying the practice began during the Clinton administration under then-administrator Carol Browner.
Mr. Horner uncovered the existence of the secret emails while researching a book, “The Liberal War on Transparency,” published last month. Mr. Horner said after the book came out, two former EPA officials told him about the “Richard Windsor” email and said it was “one of the alternate email addresses she used.”
He said he has also discovered some EPA employees setting up private gmail accounts using their first and last names and the word EPA as a standard formula.
“They’ve been moving government over to private email,” Mr. Horner told The Washington Times. “In the book, I reveal private servers the White House had universities and pressure groups set up so they can conduct discussions.”
Federal open-records laws are designed to make information available to the public now, and to posterity at the National Archives, which collects official correspondence. There are strict rules on the use of email addresses, and the rules prohibit using private emails to try to circumvent open-records laws.
But news reports have revealed several instances where the White House and departments have used private emails to do business, including at the Department of Energy, where Jonathan Silver, the department’s loan officer, “explicitly directed others to keep loan guarantee communications secret by not linking public and private email accounts, and sent emails detailing official government business using his private email account,” according to the Science Committee.
In his letters to Ms. Jackson and three inspectors general, Science Committee Chairman Ralph Hall said at the very least the actions violate President Obama’s vow to run a transparent administration.
“Unfortunately, time and again, actions by the administration on transparency have fallen far short of the president’s rhetoric, in many instances trending away from transparency and toward greater secrecy,” Mr. Hall wrote in a letter signed by five other lawmakers.