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Politico - Vitter blasts EPA over new emails from former regional chief

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By Erica Martinson

Sen. David Vitter, the ranking member of the environment committee, continued to batter EPA about its transparency, releasing new documents Friday that show a now-resigned official used his personal email account for official business.

Former-EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin used a personal email account in conversations with Environmental Defense Fund attorney Vickie Patton, according to emails released by Vitter's office Friday.

Martin, who spent a decade as an attorney at EDF before taking top jobs at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, resigned from his EPA post Feb. 22.

At the time, EPA said his departure was for personal reasons and said he had not used his personal email account to conduct official business.

"That Mr. Martin responded to one email sent to his personal email account to confirm a meeting that appears on his official government calendar does not alter that fact," EPA said in a statement last month, adding that email turned up after Martin searched his email in "an abundance of caution," and that the agency went above and beyond in its quest for transparency.

But the story didn't end there. New emails surfaced, and Vitter quickly charged EPA with lying.

"EPA should start owning up to the facts piling up before them. Their blatant disregard for proper procedure and transparency is now being regularly exposed, and EPA's leadership must be held accountable," Vitter said in a statement Friday.

Vitter's office received some of the new emails from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has sued EPA to release the emails and received new documents Thursday, according to court documents. Vitter and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have also launched their own investigation and received some documents from Martin's attorney, Vitter's spokesman Luke Bolar told POLITICO.

Vitter's office declined on Friday to release the full trove of documents from which they drew the emails.

A spokeswoman for EPA, Alisha Johnson, said Friday that the agency had made its previous statement on Feb. 19 using the information available in Martin's previous affidavit to the court. That affidavit was withdrawn on Thursday.

"As shown by today's court filing, the Environmental Protection Agency is committed to adhering to the appropriate regulations and laws for both federal records management and releasing documents under the Freedom of Information Act," Johnson said in a statement Friday.

"Once it was determined that there were emails outside of EPA's email system that were responsive to a FOIA request, EPA directed Mr. Martin to forward those emails to his EPA account so they would be available for both FOIA and records purposes."

An EPA attorney informed the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 5 that it had just learned there may be additional documents but said it was still working to find out if more needed to be added to the record.

Those documents "have now been provided to the Competitive Enterprise Institute as part of its FOIA request. In addition, EPA continues to work with the inspector general in its review of EPA's email practices and policies and is prepared to give full consideration to any recommendations for improvements identified in that review," Johnson said.

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