Head of Senate committee seeks answers on Scott Pruitt's email practices at EPA

Tuesday , April 17, 2018 - 6:37 AM

Juliet Eilperin

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is now scrutinizing whether Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is fully complying with public records requests, given the fact that he has multiple government email addresses.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Pruitt has four different addresses, three of which do not follow EPA’s conventional format. Agency lawyers have raised concerns that not all of them are being searched during Freedom of Information Act requests. Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley, Ore., and Thomas R. Carper, Del., have demanded Pruitt provide greater disclosure on the matter. On Friday, Barrasso joined that call.

Until this week, Barrasso has refrained from criticizing any of Pruitt’s actions while in office, instead praising his deregulatory agenda. On Monday, however, Barrasso raised concern about the Government Accountability Office’s report that EPA had violated federal spending laws by failing to notify Congress before installing a private phone booth in Pruiit’s office last year at a cost of $43,000.

“During your confirmation hearing, I specifically asked you from ‘refrain from taking any action - that makes it difficult or impossible for the public to access your official written communications under the Freedom of Information Act,‘” Barrasso wrote Pruitt. “You agreed to my request.”

“Can you affirm that the EPA does in fact search all your official email accounts when responding to FOIA requests?” Barrasso added.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement that Pruitt uses three email accounts, while a fourth one created for him was only tested a few times before becoming inactive.

“When EPA receives a FOIA request concerning the Administrator’s emails, all accounts associated are searched before we respond to that request,” said EPA Acting Chief Information Officer Steve Fine in a statement.

But Ken Cook, president of the advocacy group Environmental Working Group, said Pruitt needs to be more transparent about his operations.

“Between his four email accounts and his $43,000 private phone booth, Pruitt is taking all the appropriate steps to keep lawmakers, journalists and the prying eyes of taxpayers from learning what he’s been up to since becoming the head of EPA,” Cook said in a statement.

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