The Environmental Protection Agency is advising certain staff members not to talk to congressional investigators, reporters or even the agency's inspector general, according to an internal email obtained by the Associated Press.
The email, dated June 16, tells 11 officials in the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to remind its staff to not respond to questions or make any statements, according to an AP story Monday afternoon.
The agency has been locked in a battle for months with congressional Democrats over the Bush administration's policy regulating greenhouse gasses.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer insists that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson had informed President Bush that high levels of man-made pollutants were causing global warming, which by law would have required that the government regulate the gases.
The EPA emailed the findings of a report on the subject to the White House in December, but the White House declined to open the email.
White House officials have previously said they were unable to open the email, an explanation that has not sat well with congressional Democrats.
The watchdog organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained the
e-mail and provided it to the AP.
Jeff Ruch, the group's executive director, told the AP the document reinforces what he called a "bunker
mentality" within EPA.
EPA officals told the AP the memo was aimed at improving efficiency.
Boxer has scheduled a press conference for 2pm Tuesday to discuss the matter.