Quantcast

Dems Demand Answers From EPA Boss About Luxury Travel on Taxpayer Dime

Popular

House Democrats are investigating reports of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), repeatedly taking premium flights funded by taxpayers.

"Americans deserve an EPA Administrator more dedicated to first-class protection of human health and the environment than to luxury travel at taxpayer expense," Energy and Commerce Democratic leaders wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pruitt.


The letter was signed by ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), oversight and investigations subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-CO) and environment subcommittee ranking member Paul Tonko (D-NY).

"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," they continued.

"It remains unclear how any possible security threats warranted the frequent issuance of waivers authorizing you to fly first-class on domestic flights, or how sitting in a first-class seat is safer than sitting in economy class."

The Washington Post, citing records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project, reported earlier this month that Pruitt's use of taxpayer funds on first-class flights and luxury hotels exceeded previous administrators.

During a two-week stretch in June, the EPA head racked up at least $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel. One of his short domestic trips from Washington, DC to New York was booked first class for $1,600—six times the amount spent on the two media aides who came along and sat in coach.

Pruitt was most recently spotted flying first class from the Washington metro area to Boston just a day after the Trump administration proposed cutting the EPA's budget by more than 23 percent.

Federal regulations call for government employees to "consider the least expensive class of travel that meets their needs" but they can use first class for security or medical reasons.

An EPA spokesman initially explained that Pruitt has a "blanket waiver to fly in first or business class" due to unspecified security concerns.

But the agency later backtracked that statement after criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Even Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, the retired pilot who famously landed a plane in the Hudson River and now serves as a safety and aviation expert, commented that "first-class is not safer than economy."

An EPA spokesman now insists that Pruitt submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class for each trip.

Pruitt, who notoriously travels around with a 24/7 security detail, explained to the New Hampshire Union Leader that his security team dictates his travel options.

"We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment," Pruitt told the publication.

"We've reached the point where there's not much civility in the marketplace and it's created, you know, it's created some issues and the [security] detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat."

Still, the Democrats are requesting documents and answers to a series of questions, including:

  • Provide a list of all instances to date where Pruitt traveled by air domestically in first or business-class, including the total expense of these tickets.
  • Has the Agency conducted any analysis to indicate enhanced security is achieved by premium travel?
  • How do interactions with the American public at airports necessitate purchasing first-class plane tickets?
  • Was any of Administrator Pruitt's first-class or business-class travel authorized or otherwise approved by the White House?

Despite the travel scandal, it appears that President Trump still has confidence in his EPA director, as The Hill reported.

"I have no reason to believe otherwise," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday when a reporter asked if the president still has confidence in Pruitt and VA Secretary David Shulkin who also reportedly flew to Europe last year on the taxpayer dime.

"As we have said many times before, if somebody doesn't have the confidence of the president, you will know," she added.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less