The Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson demanding information on an alleged secret “internal” email system the agency it uses in addition to the normal public one. The system is an alleged bid to escape federal transparency rules, including the Freedom of Information Act, regarding official communications.

The lawmakers, lead by Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., write:

In recent weeks, questions have been raised in Congress and among public interest groups about the use of one or more secondary email accounts and aliases by you and potentially other officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Given your reported use of at least one alias email account in your conduct of agency business, we write to ask that you describe fully the nature and extent of this practice.

The inquiry is based on a claim in a new book by Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute and staunch critic of the EPA under President Obama. Horner claims he was told of the existence of the email system while working on his book The Liberal War on Transparency:

Horner said two former “fairly senior” EPA officials contacted him while he was researching his book, and gave him the name of one of the email alias names used by EPA Chief Jackson.

“Richard Windsor” was just “[o]ne of the alternate email addresses she used,” according to Horner.

The GOP lawmakers’ letter asks whether Horner’s report is true, if that email account or other non-public ones are still in use, and what is the alternate system’s purpose. A spokesman for the EPA could not be reached for comment.