U.S. lawmakers press EPA head for details on "Windsor" email alias

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:13pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers want the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency to explain her use of a government-assigned email address under a fake name.

Representatives Fred Upton, the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Cliff Stearns formally asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Thursday if she used an account with the alias "Richard Windsor" and if she has used any other accounts assigned by the agency.

The alias was first revealed last month in articles by climate-change skeptic Chris Horner, of the American Tradition Institute, who discovered it while doing research for a book.

EPA administrators have been assigned two email accounts, for public and internal use, for more than a decade, the agency said in a statement last month.

Complaints from lawmakers and a public interest watchdog group about Jackson's second account center on the fact that the alias - the name of a Jackson family dog - was not something that could be easily linked to the administrator.

Any emails Jackson wrote under the account may not have been captured by Freedom of Information Act requests or made it to national archives, they argued.

"We recognize the utility of a secondary, internal email account for the conduct of agency business," the lawmakers said in a letter to Jackson. "We seek to understand whether conducting business with an alias has in any way affected the transparency of the agency's activities."

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter.

Last month, a non-partisan government watchdog group asked the EPA's inspector general to investigate the fake account.

"The easy fix would be to have an account that is more identifiable as the administrator's," said Anne Weismann, the chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The arcane alias made the potential for abuse that much higher, she said.

The lawmakers also asked the EPA to tell them within a week whether Jackson used an alias for communications with all EPA employees or a select group and whether she had used an alias with any non-governmental third parties.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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