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Rick Snyder Says He's Releasing All His Emails About The Flint Water Crisis

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 23/02/2016 Tyler Tynes
ATHENA IMAGE © Brett Carlsen via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

WASHINGTON -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) says he will release all of his office's emails relating to the Flint water crisis since the start of his administration in 2011.

Snyder's office told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that the governor has been working with his legal team sifting through documents for several weeks. There is no timetable for when the documents will be released.

Along with the emails, Snyder's office says it also plans to make public material that has been requested under the Freedom of Information Act. 

"These are unprecedented actions. By making this information easily accessible, everyone can review it," Laura Biehl, deputy press secretary to Snyder, told HuffPost in an emailed statement Tuesday. "We know that this was a failure of government at all levels. Then we can all focus and work together on solutions, moving Flint forward and getting residents the assistance they need."

Biehl noted that Snyder has already released Flint-related emails from 2014 and 2015, along with more than 24,000 pages of emails from various Michigan state departments relevant to the Flint water crisis. 

In January, accompanying the release of the 2014 and 2015 Flint emails, Snyder wrote that he was making the documents public in the "spirit of transparency and accountability."

Since 2014, residents of Flint -- an impoverished former industrial center that's almost 57 percent black -- have been drinking and bathing in toxic water. There's a widespread sense that the crisis is a product of environmental racism, since it has disproportionately affected the city's black community. 

Multiple members of Congress have urged Snyder in recent weeks to release more documents pertaining to the crisis.

The governor's emergency managers were involved in a decision to temporarily use the Flint River as a main water source while a pipeline to Lake Huron was being constructed. That plan went into effect last April, resulting in contaminated drinking water for thousands of residents.

Snyder had initially tried to shift responsibility away from his own administration, blaming Flint's city council for a 2013 vote to switch to the Karengodi Water Authority.

Congressional hearings on Flint took place earlier this month, thanks in part to the urging of Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), a ranking member of the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on the Interior. Snyder did not attend those hearings.

Lawrence said this week that the people of Flint deserve the truth from the governor.

“If the governor is truly committed to getting to the truth of the matter and the bottom of this man-made catastrophe there should be no hesitation in providing all the documentation requested," Lawrence told HuffPost in a statement on Tuesday.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who with Lawrence has been persistent in demanding greater disclosures from Snyder's office, similarly urged the governor this week to be more forthcoming.

"To date, Gov. Snyder has cherry-picked documents to disclose and shielded himself in redactions and FOIA exemptions, and as a result critical pieces of the record are still missing," Cummings said in a statement Tuesday. "This is not how an open and transparent government acts. If Governor Snyder really wants to honor his promise of accountability, he would immediately provide all of the documents Congresswoman Lawrence and I have requested. Period.”

Cummings argued on Monday that congressional Republicans are being soft on Snyder over the water catastrophe. The Congressional Black Caucus, of which Lawrence and Cummings are members, has announced plans to travel to Flint next month with Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a native of the city.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, did not comment about the matter to HuffPost on Tuesday, but said he was looking forward to hearing Snyder testify before the committee in March. The date for that to happen has not been set.

Kildee argued on Tuesday that Snyder's administration is ultimately responsible for the crisis in Flint, and that it needs to be transparent in its efforts to set things right.

"It is clear that Governor Snyder's administration, including his state-appointed emergency financial managers, created this crisis," Kildee told HuffPost in an email. "It's critical that the Governor be forthcoming with what he knows about the decisions that led to this terrible tragedy."

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