Senate Republican lawmakers released a report yesterday accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of several Freedom of Information Act violations.
“As Congress has raised questions about EPA’s lack of transparency, the agency has steadfastly ignored its constitutional obligation to subject itself to congressional oversight, apparently in an effort to prevent the public from knowing what is going on behind closed doors,” the report said, according to the Washington Examiner.
The report comes as Lisa Jackson, former EPA administrator, is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Jackson, who resigned as administrator seven months ago, provides the basis for Republicans’ allegations against the EPA. The committee will investigate Jackson’s use of a secret secondary email account under the name Richard Windsor to conduct official business.
According to the report:
The agency established an alias identity to hide the actions of the former administrator; has purposefully been unresponsive to FOIA request, oftentimes redacting information the public has a right to know; and mismanaged its electronic records system such that federal records have been jeopardized. Moreover, EPA’s leadership abandoned the historic model of a specialized public servant who seeks to fairly administer the law and has instead embraced a number of controversial tactics to advance a secretive agenda.
Federal officials are banned from using false names on official accounts. If they cannot avoid using a personal email account, they are required to inform FOIA officials.
In addition, the report accuses the EPA of avoiding congressional oversight, failing to properly train employees to process FOIA requests, and inappropriately using exemptions to withhold information from the public, among other allegations.
The agency agreed to some reforms during the confirmation of new EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, but deep concerns still surround the agency’s conduct.
This kind of controversy does not bode well for the Obama administration, given the president’s new all-encompassing climate change agenda and the EPA’s lead role in it. Despite Jackson’s lawyer’s vehemence that his client is innocent, the report’s detailed allegations will prove hard for her to dodge.