Quantcast

Records Show EPA Head Travels Home Excessively and on Taxpayers Dime

Popular
Scott Pruitt

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records show that administrator Scott Pruitt spent almost half of his days this spring in Oklahoma or on trips that included stops in his home state. The airfare for these trips cost more than $12,000, with most of that covering travel to and from the administrator's home state.

The records, obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through a Freedom of Information Act request, show a total of 48 out of 92 days in March, April and May in which Pruitt was traveling, and 43 of those travel days were spent in Oklahoma or heading to or from Pruitt's home state.


These travel costs were for Pruitt himself, and do not include the price of travel and lodging for his staff or for his security detail of up to 10 guards, which is at least twice as large as the security force provided to his predecessor as EPA administrator.

"These travel records show that administrator Pruitt is more focused on cultivating his relationships with industry and conservative political organizations in his home state of Oklahoma than he is on protecting the environment and the public health for the rest of America," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and former Director of Civil Enforcement at EPA.

Although former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy also frequently travelled back to her home in Boston, she paid for those flights, according to a report in The New York Times. By contrast, taxpayers paid for the more than $12,000 in airfare for Pruitt, according to EPA records.

The Times story included an interview with a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, Keith Gaddie, who suggested Pruitt was probably going home for personal reasons, because Pruitt's daughter recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and he also has a son who is several years younger.

"If this is true, it raises questions about whether Mr. Pruitt improperly used federal funding for personal travel and business, and whether he should write a check to reimburse taxpayers for these expenses," said Schaeffer.

Among Pruitt's activities during his trips to Oklahoma, according to travel documents and Pruitt's calendar listings obtained by EIP, were:

  • A March 23-27 trip to Oklahoma, including an event during which the EPA administrator received an award from the Oklahoma Well Strippers Association.
  • An April 13-19 trip to Oklahoma, Chicago and Missouri, including an event in Oklahoma during which Pruitt was the keynote speaker at a meeting of a pro-industry lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Committee.
  • A May 12-15 trip to Oklahoma and Colorado that included a meeting in Colorado with Pruitt at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
  • A May 19-22 trip to Oklahoma that included a tour by Pruitt of the Brainerd Chemical Company.

The travel vouchers also indicate the administrator had other unspecified "meetings" while in Oklahoma.

Excessive travel to one's home, on the taxpayer's dime, has raised ethical red flags in the past with the EPA Inspector General's Office.

On Sept. 22, 2015, EPA's Office of Inspector General criticized a former EPA regional administrator for scheduling 51 out of 88 trips over a 27 month period, or 58 percent of the total, to locations near his residence in Orange County, California. The Inspector General questioned whether, "some of this travel was essential to performance of the agency," after comparing these records to the travel habits of other regional administrators.

Administrator Pruitt's records show that trips to Oklahoma accounted for 43 out of his 48 travel days this spring, or 90 percent of that total.

"It seems fair to ask whether all of administrator Pruitt's trips—and the money they cost taxpayers—are essential to performance of the agency," said Schaeffer. "It is also fair to ask how much additional money is spent to fly his entourage of security guards back and forth to his home state if that is where the administrator is going to spend half his time."

EIP's summary of the administrator's travel is based on a review of the travel vouchers and schedule of meetings we obtained in response to a May 18 Freedom of Information Act request to EPA. Our estimate of airfare costs based on travel vouchers excludes the amounts that Pruitt appeared to have covered on several occasions. The estimate of travel days includes days spent travelling to or from Oklahoma or locations in other states for events or meetings.

On July 18, EPA sent via email an electronic file containing records of Pruitt's travel vouchers through May 31.

The cost of airfare indicated on the chart reflects the amount paid by the US government for Pruitt's airfare only. It does not include any per diem nor does it include airfare or travel costs for other staff. If the records of travel vouchers indicate that Mr. Pruitt paid his own way for any segment of his travel, it has been reflected in the chart. Otherwise, total airfare includes all portions of multi-city trips, not just the segments to/from Oklahoma.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter


georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images

By Jennifer Molidor

One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Remsburg / VW Pics / Getty Images

Botswana, home to one third of Africa's elephants, announced Wednesday that it was lifting its ban on the hunting of the large mammals.

"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pxhere

By Richard Denison

Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).

Read More Show Less
De Molen windmill and nuclear power plant cooling tower in Doel, Belgium. Trougnouf / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Grant Smith

From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Brett Walton / Circle of Blue

By Brett Walton

When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Gabriele Holtermann Gorden / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.

This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.

Read More Show Less
Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.

That's the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.

The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.

The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.

"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."

Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.

"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."

Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.

"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice held a press conference after the annual shareholder meeting on May 22. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice

Amazon shareholders voted down an employee-backed resolution calling for more aggressive action on climate change at their annual meeting Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Read More Show Less