September 12, 2017
CREW sent a letter to David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, stating that actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appear to violate the Federal Records Act (FRA).
The FRA imposes obligations on agency heads to “make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures and essential transactions of the agency.”
Mr. Pruitt’s reported actions appear to conflict directly with these obligations. He is reportedly carrying out his agency’s agenda in secrecy: for example, the New York Times has reported that in meetings with Mr. Pruitt employees “are sometimes told not to take notes.”
Moreover, Mr. Pruitt and his top aides seem to be avoiding the creation of written documentation that explains why the EPA is making some of its major regulatory changes. For example, according to the above Times report, aides to Mr. Pruitt “recently asked career employees to make major changes in a rule regulating water quality in the United States – without any records of the changes they were being ordered to make.”
These actions illustrate how Mr. Pruitt and the EPA are evading public scrutiny of their decisions by failing to create records, thereby apparently violating the FRA requirement to document and preserve records reflecting essential EPA decisions and policies and documenting how they are made.
Preservation of the nation’s history is entrusted to the Archivist of the United States, and fulfillment of this duty relies on federal agencies’ compliance with the FRA. CREW therefore requested that the Archivist exercise his authority to review the EPA’s actions and make the necessary recommendations to redress any violations.
Update: On September 25, 2017, the Archivist sent a letter acknowledging CREW’s concerns and stating that he sent a letter to Steven Fine, the Acting Assistant Administrator at the Office of Environmental Information and the Senior Agency Official for Records Management, requesting to schedule a meeting within 30 days to discuss these concerns.