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Mr. Silver countered that it was all about intent.

“I did certainly use my private email from time to time. But as I said before and want to reiterate now, it was certainly never my intent to evade,” he said.

Violating federal records management laws doesn’t carry stiff penalties, and all sides agreed that training is lax and enforcement is difficult.

But Mr. Issa said the use of private emails that began in the Bush administration has become worse under President Obama.

Committee Democrats countered that transparency overall is much better under this administration, though they said there is room for improvement and for tweaks to keep up with technology.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Republican leaders have delayed action on a transparency bill that the panel approved this year and included a requirement that set a five-day deadline for forwarding business emails from personal accounts.

Mr. Silver and Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said they were not trained on compliance with open-records laws when they took their federal posts. Ms. Jackson said she was trained.

The EPA’s inspector general is conducting an investigation into reports that the agency has a recurring problem with storing and providing agency records.

Meanwhile, an internal investigation into the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has found problems, and Mr. Gensler said he is taking steps to require better rules and better training at his agency.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that there was evidence the EPA acted in bad faith when it conducted a records search for the Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm. In that ruling, Judge Royce C. Lamberth questioned the agency’s “truthfulness” and said personal email accounts of top EPA officials can be considered “relevant documents” for some records searches.

EPA’s silence speaks volumes; its failure to deny the allegations that personal accounts were being used to conduct official business leaves open the possibility that they were,” Judge Lamberth wrote.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Ms. Jackson also explained her decision to use a main EPA email account and to create a second account under the name “Richard Windsor,” which she used to communicate with top White House and EPA officials.

She said the alias was tongue-in-cheek: When she took the top EPA job, her husband and sons were still living in East Windsor, N.J., and their family dog’s name was Ricky.

The key question is whether those in charge of open-records requests knew to search that account when they were looking for documents. She testified that the Windsor account was searched, while Mr. Horner questions how often that happened.

“Obviously, the false identity would frustrate the act it was subject to, the only conceivable reason for creating it,” he said.