The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general has opened an investigation to see whether or not taxpayers footed the bill for Administrator Scott Pruitt’s trips home to Oklahoma.
“This assignment is being initiated based on congressional requests and a hotline complaint, all of which expressed concerns about Administrator Pruitt’s travel — primarily his frequent travel to and from his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayer expense,” reads a notification that the IG’s office posted online Monday.
Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, along with environmental activists, asked the IG’s office to investigate Pruitt’s trips home.
Investigators “will review supporting documentation and conduct interviews with management and staff to determine whether the EPA followed applicable policies and practices, and complied with federal requirements,” according to the notification.
The requests were based on earlier reports Pruitt was in Oklahoma at least 43 of the 92 days in the spring, which coincided with events held by conservative groups.
The EPA pushed back on those reports, saying most of those days out of town were on weekends, and Pruitt returned to Washington, D.C. for work on Mondays. The agency said that Pruitt went home on his own time and not at taxpayer expense.
Democrats and environmental activists have long raised ethical questions about Pruitt’s leadership at the EPA, starting with his time as attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt critics have honed in on a 2014 New York Times article on Pruitt’s ties to the energy industry.
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy traveled home to Boston nearly every weekend while heading the agency during the latter half of the Obama administration. The IG’s office did not launch an investigation into McCarthy’s travel — at least not publicly.
The EPA published details of McCarthy’s schedule in 2014, including the fact she “travels back to Boston, to her home and her husband” almost every weekend. McCarthy’s former spokeswoman told Reuters that she “fit travel home into her personal time.”
“Administrator Pruitt is traveling the country to hear directly from the people impacted by EPA’s regulations outside of the Washington bubble. This is nothing more than a distraction from the Administrator’s significant environmental accomplishments,” EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham said in a statement.
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