CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—Scott Pruitt and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appear to be violating federal records laws by systematically failing to create and maintain documents of essential EPA activities, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition to Pruitt and the EPA’s apparent violation of the Federal Records Act (FRA), the suit also alleges further violations by Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for failing to properly enforce the law.
The FRA is a collection of statutes that governs the creation, management and disposal of federal records to ensure Americans have a detailed record of their government’s actions. Among other things, the FRA ensures the “[a]ccurate and complete documentation of the policies and transactions of the Federal Government.”
“It appears EPA Administrator Pruitt has operated in secrecy to avoid creating an adequate record of his and the EPA’s actions,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “We should not have to sue him to force him to follow the law and allow the public a window into what he is doing about the many critical issues before the EPA, but he has given us no other choice.”
Pruitt and other EPA political appointees have reportedly told EPA staff not to create a written record about substantive matters, including major changes to a water quality rule. Pruitt has also reportedly prohibited staff from bringing cellular phones into meetings and directed staff not to take notes to avoid the creation of any record of his questions and directions, and he uses phones other than his own to deal with important EPA-related matters so the calls do not show up in his call logs.
“Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA has assumed a bunker mentality where paper trails are religiously avoided unless penned in invisible ink,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco. “By law, the American public has a right to know the basis for public health and anti-pollution decision-making that affects their lives.”
The FRA also requires the archivist to address violations of federal records law. Despite CREW’s request highlighting Pruitt’s possible FRA violations, Ferriero and NARA have not appeared to take any action.