- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner has two weeks to respond to accusations that she and other top EPA officials ordered the destruction of records sought in a pending lawsuit just before President Clinton left office.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who ordered on Jan. 19 that the records were to be preserved in the suit, gave Mrs. Browner and other top EPA officials until July 16 to answer the accusations. His ruling came after a hearing Friday in federal court here.
The documents had been requested by the Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm that said in the suit that the EPA violated the federal Freedom of Information Act in refusing to turn over records showing its ties to special interest groups of pending environmental regulations.
The pending Landmark suit sought to force the EPA to disclose records showing the identities of special interest groups that may have worked with the agency in producing environmental regulations in the final days of the Clinton administration.
Mrs. Browner said in a sworn deposition in the case that she did not know about Judge Lamberth's order to preserve the records when she told a computer technician, Kevin Bailey, on Jan. 19 to erase her computer files. She also said she did not recall ever hearing about Landmark's lawsuit, filed three months earlier.
The former EPA administrator said she sought only to clean up her computer files, including the removal of games her son had installed on her work computer. She said in the deposition she was not sure what else was contained in her computer "since I didn't use it regularly."
According to the deposition, Mrs. Browner said she heard about the case in a telephone call from one of her aides who advised her of Judge Lamberth's order to preserve the documents.
But, she said, that call came after she had already asked that her computer files be erased.
Landmark has asked the judge to hold Mrs. Browner and other former EPA officials in contempt over their decision to destroy the records. That motion is pending.
"The record in this matter clearly indicates that the EPA has failed to act in good faith throughout this litigation," said Landmark President Mark R. Levin, adding that the firm had not received "one page" of documents concerning Mrs. Browner during the nine months since the suit was filed.
"This is a Cabinet-level officer who didn't use her computer, didn't read news clippings about her or her agency and didn't take any notes at any meeting concerning any topic," he said. "If the 'stupid defense' works in this case, we're going to have a lot of stupid Cabinet officers in the future."
The suit came in October after published reports that the EPA was "working feverishly" to issue a host of last-minute regulations before Mr. Clinton left office. Landmark asked the EPA for the documents, but the agency refused to turn them over.
Landmark charged that the records included the identification of new rules or regulations for which the public had not been given notice, the names of persons and groups outside the EPA with whom agency officials met regarding the pending rules, and documents concerning revised or new regulations that would establish more stringent standards on a number of fronts.
The law firm's concerns centered on efforts by the EPA to issue a host of new rules and regulations proposed by environmentalists and other liberal-leaning groups, but opposed by many business and industry organizations.

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