Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has used four government email accounts since assuming office, and two Democratic senators are worried the complex setup may have allowed the administrator to dodge demands for public records.
Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), both members of a Senate committee with EPA oversight, sent a letter this week to the EPA inspector general asking for an investigation into Pruitt’s use of multiple emails. Aside from his standard Pruitt.Scott@epa.gov account, two others were used for scheduling and what the lawmakers call “communicating.” The Washington Post notes that a fourth email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, is an apparent reference to the University of Oklahoma football team, of which Pruitt is a fan.
“We write to share our deep concern over Administrator Pruitt’s reported use of multiple email accounts,” the letter, dated April 10, reads. “It is imperative that there be an investigation into whether the agency has properly searched these email addresses for responsive documents in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.”
The lawmakers, both members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, note that the EPA has received “thousands” of public records requests since Pruitt took over the agency. Journalists and advocacy groups have turned to laws allowing them to request documents that may reveal Pruitt’s secretive agenda of dismantling environmental protections and favoring corporate interests. The disclosures have led to substantial news stories, including the public release of Pruitt’s schedule and details about a $43,000 soundproof phone booth installed in his office.
But Merkley and Carper said they worried the “secret email accounts” may be used to withhold “information from the public in violation of valid FOIA request.”
An EPA spokesman confirmed the existence of the email accounts to the Post. The agency has complied with all requests, the spokesman said, and when a FOIA request is received, “all accounts are searched before we respond.”
Pruitt and the EPA have been battling a stream of ethical issues, including his sweetheart rental of a condo co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist. Pruitt insisted on staying in expensive hotels and flying on specific airlines in order to accrue frequent flier miles, according to congressional investigators.
President Donald Trump has stood by the EPA chief, tweeting earlier this week that Pruitt “is doing a great job!”