WASHINGTON -- The mystery of the missing government emails has spread to the EPA.
The Environmental Protection Agency is now the second federal agency to tell Congress that it was unable to provide emails to an oversight committee due to a computer problem. This comes after Republicans have already been on the offensive over missing IRS emails.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this week that some emails from Phil North, a former EPA scientist working at Pebble Mine in Alaska, could not be immediately provided because of difficulties accessing North’s hard drive.
“We are having trouble acquiring the data,” she said.
Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., accused North of using his role within the agency to “unilaterally attempt to preempt the application for a mine.” Issa threatened to hold the agency in contempt.
Issa, along with Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., told McCarthy that the committee had requested to speak with North, but that he had traveled to New Zealand and did not respond.
McCarthy said she did not know of North’s whereabouts, nor could she say whether his computer had crashed, telling lawmakers that the EPA was still working to obtain the emails.
“There are some gaps, but we have already submitted significant amounts,” McCarthy said. “It's not clear how much we might have missed, but we're looking at it.”
Bentivolio was not satisfied.
“What is with bureaucrats and government agencies when this committee is investigating trying to find out about their personal emails or emails on an EPA or a government computer,” he said.
Bentivolio was referring to emails missing from the computer of Lois Lerner, a former IRS official at the center of a scandal that erupted in 2013 over claims that the agency targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status.