Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt went without a Washington, D.C., residence for roughly a month in 2017 after moving out of a $50-a-night rental bedroom, The Washington Post reports.
Pruitt ended his contract with Vicki Hart, a health care lobbyist and wife of top energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart, on Aug. 4. Pruitt moved into his second D.C. residence on Sept. 5, leasing an apartment in a newly constructed complex that took its first residents Aug. 29.
Throughout the month of August, Pruitt spent little to no time in the nation’s capital. He traveled extensively, visiting officials across five states. He also took an extended vacation to recover from knee surgery at his home in Oklahoma. Pruitt still received regular briefings from his staff during that time, according to WaPo.
Pruitt allegedly asked his staff to schedule his travels in early August and informed them he would be out of D.C. for most of the month.
During this trip, Pruitt took a couple of charter flights across his home state that drew scrutiny. Pruitt booked a private plane to transport him from his hometown of Tulsa to a small farming community 330 miles away, then from there to Oklahoma City to meet with reporters and state officials. The EPA justified the expense saying Pruitt’s schedule did not allow for what would have been about nine-and-a-half hours driving between the three locations.
For nearly a week, Pruitt and the EPA have been dealing with backlash over recent revelations that the administrator rented a bedroom from Washington lobbyists at a below market value.
Pruitt has dismissed the criticism as partisan sniping and driven by opponents who disagree with him rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations.
“This agency has been a bastion of liberalism since day one,” Pruitt told The Washington Times. “As we are making progress there and also reducing the regulatory burden, it is infuriating to those that have dominated and controlled the agency for years.”
The controversy prompted a White House review of Pruitt’s rental deal.
“The President thinks he is doing a good job, particularly on the deregulation front. But again, we take this seriously and we are looking into it,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday.
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