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GOP demands EPA investigation after text messages go missing

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill, July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The chairman of the House committee on science and technology is asking the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General to explain EPA policies for keeping text messages, and investigate recent practices in this area after the EPA has admitted to losing thousands of texts being sought in a court action.

The EPA is being sued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that is demanding text messages to and from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. According to The Hill, the EPA has told the federal court that it may have lost those texts.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill, July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. Mark Wilson/Getty Images Texts to and from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy were disposed of, despite internal EPA policies that say they should be kept. House Republicans are demanding an assessment of internal EPA rules for keeping texts and other communications. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

But in a Monday letter, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) noted that the EPA's own policy requires all offices to "establish and maintain a records management program." The policy requires the EPA to manage and maintain records in several forms, including email, instant messages, electronic documents and other formats.

"This is not the first time that the EPA appears to have experienced problems with missing records," Smith wrote. He noted that over the summer, the EPA admitted to losing emails that members of Congress were looking for, related to a decision to block a mining operation in Alaska.

"My concerns over the potential loss of federal records is compounded by the fact that Administrator McCarthy is not the first senior-level administration employee to face questions about lost or deleted federal records," Smith wrote. "She is accompanied by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and Lois Lerner, former Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations, to name two others."

Smith asked the OIG to explain how the EPA responds to requests for reports involving text messages, how text messages are used to conduct business at the EPA, and whether and how recent texts have been lost or purposely destroyed.

Smith asked for a reply by December 1. Read his letter here:

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