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Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Pruitt likes to travel in style, but he doesn’t like to explain why.
Pruitt is often booked on first or business-class flights, but federal regulations mandate that government employees like Pruitt should take every measure to select the least expensive method of travel that suits their security needs and gets them to their appointed location on time.
According to travel records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project, Pruitt’s travel cost more than $90,000 last June alone, the Washington Post reports.
Pruitt took a first-class flight from Washington D.C. to New York City on June 5, 2017, that cost $1,641.43, according to the report. A similar flight on coach could cost as little as $293.
The documents claim that the increased flight costs are due to “unspecified security concerns,” the newspaper reported. Pruitt has round-the-clock security detail that costs taxpayers about $2 million per year in salaries, according to CNN. The EPA reportedly receives numerous threats to Pruitt’s safety, with 32 percent of received threats directed at Pruitt, compared with 9 percent of direct threats against his predecessor Gina McCarthy.
Pruitt’s travel and security spending are much larger than previous administrators Lisa Jackson and McCarthy.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman defended Pruitt’s travel spending.“He’s trying to further positive environmental outcomes and achieve tangible environmental results” Bowman told the Post, adding that Pruitt is “hearing directly from people affected by the EPA’s regulatory overreach.”
According to travel vouchers, that means spending $2,903.56 on a trip to Colorado Springs to speak at the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank meeting last May, and $1,980.34 to head to Tulsa for a tour of the Brainerd Chemical Co. a week later.
While Pruitt does occasionally travel coach, the Post reports, he often stays at luxury hotels and chooses to fly Delta, despite the fact that the government contracts with certain airlines to fly specific routes. The EPA also declines to publicize Pruitt’s trips, again citing security concerns and breaking with previous administrations. Last June, Pruitt and his staff flew to New York from Cincinnati on a military jet to the tune of $36,068.50 to catch a flight to Rome. That flight cost $7,003.52 for Pruitt alone. According to the Post, Pruitt was joined by his aides and security detail for private tours of the Vatican before traveling to Bologna to meet with other environmental ministers.
Scrutiny of Pruitt’s lavish spending comes after revelations that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flew on military jets multiple times over a period of seven months last year, costing taxpayers $800,000. It also comes after the departure of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for his excessive travel expenditures.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.