Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, has spent more than $58,000 of taxpayer money on four trips using government and private planes to attend events throughout the United States, according to Thursday reports from CBS News and the Washington Post.
“Administrator Pruitt took one charter flight and three government flights,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman confirmed to CBS News.
In June, the EPA spent about $36,000 to fly Pruitt and three staffers from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane so that they could catch a flight to Italy for meetings with environmental ministers. According to travel documents viewed by the Washington Post, the White House approved the flight and the EPA explained that it used the military plane because no commercial flight would have gotten Pruitt to New York in time for his flight to Italy.
In July, Pruitt and six staffers flew to Guymon, Oklahoma, spending more than $14,000 on an Interior Department plane. The EPA said that Pruitt was unable to make the 10-hour round-trip drive due to time constraints, per the Washington Post.
Pruitt and three staffers flew on a private plane costing more than $5,700 to an event in Colorado in August. The EPA charted the plane because the commercial flight Pruitt planned to take was delayed by eight hours, per the Washington Post. A few days later, Pruitt spent about $2,000 to fly on a North Dakota state plane to attend an event at the University of North Dakota’s Environmental Research Center, per CBS News.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to the EPA’s inspector general on Tuesday asking for the agency watchdog to review Pruitt’s use of non-commercial flights, according to the Washington Post.
Pruitt is the third Trump administration official to come under scrutiny for his use of non-commercial planes to attend official events. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has spent more than $300,000 on non-commercial flights to attend events up and down the East Coast, often for short trips and events close to major airports. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s use of a government plane to fly to Kentucky to attend a local chamber of commerce event and to view the eclipse is also under review.
The use of non-commercial planes by these officials has prompted the House Oversight Committee to review the use of such flights by the Trump administration. The committee sent letters to the White House and 24 federal agencies on Tuesday, asking that they detail officials’ use of government-owned and private planes.
Pruitt was also already under investigation by the EPA inspector general for his travel in the first half of the year, following reports that Pruitt used taxpayer money to fly to his home state of Oklahoma several times.
The EPA chief’s spending on other items, while calling for drastic cuts across the agency, also has invited scrutiny. The EPA chief has assembled an 18-member 24/7 security detail, pulling agents from the agency’s criminal investigations unit. That level of security is unprecedented for an EPA chief. Pruitt is also building a private, sound-proof booth in his office, which will cost nearly $25,000.
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