In a joint letter sent yesterday, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the top Republican of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, reached out to Jared Blumenfeld, the Region 9 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to request that he certify that he has not at any juncture used a non-official email account to conduct official work.
EPA instructs its employees to "not use any outside e-mail account to conduct official Agency business." Yet, in the EPA's second tranche of Richard Windsor emails, released on February 15, 2013, investigators discovered an email from Region 9 Administrator Bloomfield's private email account to Richard Windsor, the alias email account used by former Administrator Lisa Jackson. The EPA released its third tranche on Friday, March 15, 2013, and the Committees are still reviewing those emails. EPA instructs its employees to "not use any outside e-mail account to conduct official Agency business."
"Our Committees have uncovered several attempts to circumvent disclosure of federal records and documents responsive to FOIA and other congressional requests. Accordingly, we call on [Blumenfeld] as Regional Administrator to stand up for the interest of transparency and cooperate with our ongoing investigation into the inappropriate use of non-official email accounts to conduct Agency business," Vitter and Issa wrote in their letter.
Despite the clear policy prohibiting use of personal emails, Vitter and Issa have highlighted examples of several high ranking EPA officials, including Acting Administrator Perciasepe, who have used their personal e-mail account for official purposes.
The text of Vitter and Issa's letter is below.
March 18, 2013
Mr. Jared Blumenfeld
Administrator, Region 9
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Dear Administrator Blumenfeld:
We write to inquire about your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct government business as the Region 9 Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We are concerned that your use of a personal e-mail account, other than your official account, is demonstrative of a larger problem at EPA. Our Committees have uncovered several attempts to circumvent disclosure of federal records and documents responsive to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or congressional requests. Accordingly, we call on you as a Regional Administrator to stand up for the interest of transparency and cooperate with our ongoing investigation into the inappropriate use of non-official e-mail accounts to conduct Agency business.
As you are aware, EPA policy explicitly prohibits the use of non-EPA e-mail accounts and instructing employees: "do not use any outside e-mail system to conduct official Agency business. If, during an emergency, you use a non-EPA e-mail system, you are responsible for ensuring that any e-mail records and attachments are saved in your office's recordkeeping system." Failure to follow this explicit protocol increases the possibility that the agency and its employees will violate the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Federal Records Act (FRA). Moreover, such actions complicate agency compliance with FOIA requests and Congressional requests. Despite the clear policy prohibiting use of personal emails, we understand that several high ranking EPA officials, including Acting Administrator Perciasepe, have used their personal e-mail account for official purposes.
It has come to our attention that you used a non-official e-mail account to send a message that related to your official duties to then-Administrator Lisa Jackson's Richard Windsor alias account. There does not appear to be any emergency circumstances justifying the use of a non-official e-mail account. Moreover, the fact that the e-mail was sent to Administrator Jackson's alias account heightens our concern.
While it is possible that you may have a valid reason for using your personal account to send this particular email, it is unclear whether this is an isolated incident or whether you used your personal account for other official business. Therefore, to clarify the record and to assist the Committees' oversight of EPA email practices and compliance with the Federal Records Act, we respectfully request that you personally certify, in writing, whether in addition to this email you ever used a non-official email account to conduct official business.
We request that you provide the Committees with this personal certification no later than March 20, 2013.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions, please contact the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at (202) 224-6176 or the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at (202) 225-5074.
David Vitter Darrell E. Issa
Ranking Member Chairman
Environment and Public Works Oversight and Government Reform