Obama EPA Heads Spent Nearly $1 Million On Foreign Trips

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Two Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chiefs racked up nearly $1 million tab for overseas trips, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

Former EPA Administrators Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson spent at least $961,847 on foreign travel over six years, according to figures obtained by TheDCNF. McCarthy’s overseas trips cost taxpayers $629,736 and Jackson’s cost $332,111.

Recent media coverage has focused on current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel, including a new Washington Post report that Pruitt’s July trip to Italy for the G7 summit cost upwards of $120,000. The Post’s story claims Pruitt’s trip cost nearly $90,000, “including $36,000 for use of a military jet to catch a flight in New York and a $7,000 premium-class ticket for Pruitt on the transatlantic flight.” Adding the $30,000 security detail bumped the cost to around $120,000.

On the other hand, the Washington Examiner reported Pruitt’s Italy trip only cost $84,000, including the costs of his security detail. It’s not really clear why the two estimates differ.

Virtually no attention has been paid to travel of past EPA administrators. Pruitt’s security costs may be higher, which EPA attributes to increased threats against their chief. However, former President Barack Obama’s administration also racked up costly foreign travel tabs.

For example, Jackson’s 2011 trip to China cost taxpayers $155,763, which includes the cost of her security detail. Jackson left EPA in 2013 amid questions over her use of a secret email account to conduct federal business. Records obtained by TheDCNF show she made at least four foreign trips during her tenure.

McCarthy, who served from 2013 to early 2017, took at least 10 foreign trips while heading EPA. The most expensive for which TheDCNF obtained figures was a 2015 trip to Dubai. McCarthy’s trip to Dubai cost taxpayers $90,367, including the cost of her security detail, according to the figures.

For months, reports have focused on Trump administration officials’ travel. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after it came to light he spent $400,000 on non-commercial flights in just a couple of months in 2017.

Reporters and environmental activists have since gone after travel by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Pruitt, seeking to tie them to Price’s scandal. Media oversight can shed light on lavish spending, yet reporters have largely ignored Obama administration travel.

TheDCNF previously found that former Obama administration Interior secretaries spent nearly $1 million on non-commercial flights, including chartered jets. It turns out, Zinke had actually spent less than his immediate predecessors on non-commercial flights.

However, Pruitt came under scrutiny for his frequent flying on first class. Pruitt has since said he would fly coach, and EPA officials noted Pruitt flew first class because of security concerns. Pruitt’s first-class travel was approved by career officials.

Documents given to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform by EPA officials show Pruitt spent $105,000 on first class, The Daily Beast reported. Chairman Trey Gowdy requested Pruitt’s travel information from EPA in February.

EPA told Gowdy that Pruitt’s travel was approved “on an individualized basis,” and that his security team “identified specific, ongoing threats associated with the administration administrator’s air travel and, therefore, shifted his class based on security protocols that require him to be near the front of the plane.”

So far, Pruitt has only taken two foreign trips, the costs of which are in line with past administrators, an EPA spokesman said.

“The double-standard couldn’t be more clear: under Barack Obama’s EPA the media chose not to report on expenditures to protect the EPA Administrator for international travel or the costs of their trips, but under the Trump Administration the costs to protect our government officials is somehow scandalous,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told TheDCNF.

Listed below are all the foreign trips McCarthy and Jackson took while heading EPA.

McCarthy 2016 trips (includes security costs):

  • Ghana — $68,382
  • Peru — $45,139
  • Tokyo — $74,737

McCarthy 2015 trips:

  • Paris — $41,320
  • Dubai — $90,367
  • Tokyo — $67,702
  • Italy — $56,192

McCarthy 2014 trips:

  • Vancouver — $62,246
  • Vietnam — $68,267

McCarthy 2013 trips:

  • China — $55,384

Jackson 2012 trips:

  • Israel — $64,963

Jackson 2011 trips:

  • Rio De Janeiro — $59,950
  • Montreal — $51,435
  • China — $155,763

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