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Congress Demands EPA Hand Over More Emails, Texts

Republican lawmakers are demanding a former top Environmental Protection Agency official’s texts and emails that could point to collusion with environmental activist groups.

“Documents show that in 2011, then-EPA Associate Administrator for Policy Michael Goo seemingly used his private e-mail account to routinely communicate with outside groups attempting to influence agency policy,” Texas Rep. Lamar Smith wrote in a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy.

Republicans have been trying for months to get the EPA to turn over more than 1,000 pages of text messages and cellphone records sent from McCarthy’s government phone. GOP lawmakers say the agency has so far only given them two text message records from McCarthy. The agency also sent over phone billing records and texts from lower-ranking officials.

Smith now has his eyes set on getting Goo’s texts and emails. News reports have shown Goo, who now works for the Department of Energy, has close ties with environmental activists. He communicated with activists using a private email account and set up meetings outside EPA property to prevent them from being public record.

Goo’s history of “communicating with third party groups through private e-mail and text messages” has created “the appearance that the [EPA’s] Office of Policy may still use similar practices,” Smith wrote, demanding McCarthy provide communications from Goo and other agency employees.

“In one e-mail sent from a personal e-mail account to a lobbyist, he writes ‘ok I will call number on text message.’ Despite the Committee’s specific request for this information, EPA failed to provide the e-mail,” Smith wrote in his letter.

“Another e-mail sent from the Sierra Club to Mr. Goo’s private e-mail account states, ‘[a]ttached is a memo I didn’t want to send in public,’” Smith added. “Mr. Goo was complicit in the lack of transparency by complying with the Sierra Club’s request because he failed to disclose the e-mail for two years.”

“Mr. Goo’s actions are troubling because it creates the appearance of secrecy,” Smith wrote. “For two years, his communications with the Sierra Club and other outside groups were hidden from Congressional inquiries and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests—potentially violating the Federal Records Act.”

Smith issued a subpoena in March for McCarthy’s texts, but the EPA only gave them two such records. The agency’s own review of the McCarthy’s texts turned up more than 1,000 pages or records. The Hill reported that “75 percent of her communications were with family members” and that “4.2 percent are with her scheduling and security staff and 9.2 percent were with other EPA employees.”

“In the interest of full transparency, EPA is providing the complete text of retained text messages with only minimal portions redacted, such as medical information, to protect personal privacy,” the EPA wrote to Smith in April. “EPA is also providing the phone numbers associated with any text message to or from a government device assigned to Administrator McCarthy.”

The agency admitted to a federal judge last year it may have deleted McCarthy’s text messages. At the time, McCarthy’s texts were being sought by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank.

The EPA told the court the “[d]efendant has decided to formally notify the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about the potential loss of federal records relating to text messages.” The agency argued the deleted texts were not required to be retained anyways.

The only text EPA sent to Republicans was one between McCarthy and Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, regarding the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

In the text, Karpinski wrote, “Karpinski here. Great job on the EPA comments on keystone. I feel like the end is very near …..” McCarthy responded via email, “Gene-I received your text message earlier today but I do not use text messaging for work purposes. Please make sure in the future to use my email address.”

Five days later, McCarthy forwarded the text message to her assistant so it could be put into federal records.

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