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Opinion: GOP launches attack on EPA leaders

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

House science committee claims top officials are circumventing federal record-keeping regulations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Instead of spending its time doing something productive about global warming or ocean acidification, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is of on yet another witch hunt, this time claiming that EPA officials have been conducting official business through secretive means such as aliases and private email accounts.

Remember, this is the same science committee that includes members who deny evolution and buy into the myth of creationism. The committee’s normal business is to oversee federal science activities, but under the leadership of reactionary conservative Republicans, this committee, like many others, has lost its way — No wonder Congress hasn’t been able to make any progress on issues that really matter to the American people.

The committee is basing its investigation on unidentified reports that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an alias email address under the name “Richard Windsor” to conduct official Government business. Committee members claim that it’s another incident following  “similarly secretive and highly questionable methods of communication by senior officials at science agencies within the White House, Department of Commerce, and Department of Energy.

The committee alleges that senior members of the administration may violate the Federal Records Act, Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act, and other statutes designed to facilitate transparency and oversight, and that the use of alias and private accounts that are hidden from staff responsible for retaining and providing access to records calls into question the fidelity of previous responses to not only the public through FOIA, but also to the Office of the Inspector General as well as Congress.

Specifically, the Members sent a letter to EPA Administrator Jackson requesting documents related to the use of alias accounts, as well as letters to the White House Counsel and the Inspectors General of EPA, DOC, and DOE requesting a review of how the various agencies are complying with the law and fulfilling the President’s transparency pledge.

When all is said and done, this will likely turn out to be another case of over-zealous Republicans trying to deflect attention from critical problems by creating a diversion. Instead of allowing the EPA to get on with the business of protecting the environment, Republicans apparently want the agency to spend time and resources answering frivolous charges. And it’s not likely the committee will send out a press release when it turns out the accusations are false and baseless.

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