REPORT: Obama’s EPA Chief Also Guilty Of Taking First-Class Flights Overseas

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A former Environmental Protection Agency administrator during former President Barack Obama’s administration flew first class on at least two international flights, according to a report Friday from E&E News.

Gina McCarthy, a former EPA administrator, flew first class on an international flight in 2016 when she led the U.S. delegation to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro that was paid for by the State Department. She typically flew economy class on flights, an ex-EPA official told E&E News.

E&E News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents related to EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and other officials travel records, which would cover the end of McCarthy’s time at the agency. The report would provide a fuller accounting of McCarthy and Pruitt’s business and first-class travel up to September 2017.

Pruitt and McCarthy were not the only administrators to fly first class. Stephen Johnson, who led the EPA during former President George W. Bush’s second term, took eight such flights during his final months as chief, according to data E&E News obtained through the FOIA request.

Johnson racked up more than $52,536 in taxpayer-funded flights, including a post-election trip in November 2008 to China that cost $28,629. His trips are detailed in EPA’s fiscal 2009 first-class travel report. Johnson had a “disability” or “special need” requiring the expensive flights, the documents show.

The Washington Post and CBS News have reported that Pruitt racked up nearly $90,000 in flight expenses. CBS reported earlier this month that he traveled to Italy in June for meetings at the Vatican and to attend a summit with international energy ministers. The round-trip, business class flight cost at least $7,000, according to the report.

EPA’s watchdog opened 70 threat investigations in 2017, including cases related to the agency’s facilities and personnel. The agency performed only 45 such probes in 2016, according to E&E News reports in 2017.

Threats against officials at the EPA spiked 50 percent during 2017, none of which resulted in injuries, but they were deemed legitimate risks to officials. Most of the threats, officials said at the time, came about shortly after President Donald Trump began rolling back his predecessor’s environmental regulations.

Trump nixed more than 50 of Obama’s environmental regulations, including the Paris climate agreement and the so-called Clean Power Plan — both of which targeted emissions from coal power plants across the country.

Government policy allows officials access for first class travel on 14-hour international flights, so Pruitt and McCarthy’s flights could be justifiable under those policies.

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