House Democrats are pushing EPA Chief Scott Pruitt to explain his use of pricey first-class flights for business purposes.
Pruitt has a lot to answer for after reports show he is using first-class flights to travel within the country, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey wrote in a letter Tuesday. Heightened security concerns prompted the change, Pruitt and other officials at the EPA have repeatedly explained.
“Americans deserve an EPA administrator more dedicated to first-class protection of human health and the environment than to luxury travel at taxpayer expense,” said Pallone, a top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Democrats don’t believe Pruitt.
“To date, your agency has failed to provide a clear explanation as to whether your travel since becoming administrator complies with all applicable federal regulations and agency procedures,” the letter stated. Pallone’s letter comes one week after an Obama-era EPA official confirmed that Pruitt needed a waiver for travel expenses after passengers accosted him over his climate policies.
“He was approached in the airport numerous times, to the point of profanities being yelled at him and so forth,” Henry Barnet, director of the agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, told Politico earlier this month. Pruitt’s use of expensive business flights for international flights have created media speculation.
Barnet was responding to media reports detailing how Pruitt racked up nearly $90,000 in flight expenses last June. CBS noted in a Feb. 13 report that Pruitt 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.
The entire trip — both ways — cost more than $43,000 dollars, according to travel vouchers activist group Environmental Integrity Project obtained. Government policy allows officials access for first class travel on 14-hour international flights.
Threats against officials at the agency and Pruitt have spiked 50 percent during 2017, according to an NBC report in 2017. EPA’s Office of Inspector General launched more than 70 investigations into threats against Pruitt and others at the agency, the Oct. 6 report noted. None of the threats resulted in injuries, but they were deemed legitimate risks to officials.
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