Compared to those who came before him, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt travels more frequently, with more staff, and in better style.
According to the Washington Post, Pruitt's travel receipts during a stretch of last June totaled $90,000 - and that did not include the cost of personal security detail. And though his schedule is not published in advance, this year is shaping up to include at least as much travel as last year.
Federal regulations state that government travelers are required to “exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business . . . and therefore, should consider the least expensive class of travel that meets their needs.” Agencies are allowed to authorize first-class travel in rare instances, such as a flight of 14 hours or more, a medical disability or when “exceptional security circumstances” mean “use of coach class accommodations would endanger your life or government property.”
The EPA’s assistant inspector general for investigations said Pruitt has received more death threats than his predecessors and cited unspecified security concerns as the reason he often flies first or business class.
While it is expected that the head of the EPA would travel, what is surprising is the cost. The Washington Post highlights numerous trips Pruitt and his coterie took last year:
- $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight from the District to New York City, more than six times the cost of staff members' coach seats.
- Pruitt and several staffers raced to New York on a military jet, at a cost of $36,068.50, to catch a plane to Rome.
- That transatlantic flight was part of a round-trip ticket for the administrator that cost $7,003.52, according to EPA records — several times what was paid for other officials who went.
- On at least four occasions, he has spent between $2,000 and $2,600 on first-class airfare to official meetings or tours near Tulsa, where he lives.
- Pruitt’s other first-class trips include a $4,680.04 itinerary to Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Little Rock to promote the unraveling of a controversial Obama administration water regulation.
- Another multi-city ticket, which included stops in Colorado, Iowa, North Dakota and Texas, cost $10,830, according to the vouchers, not including lodging and incidentals.
- On May 11, the administrator delivered the keynote address to the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank Meeting in Colorado Springs; the conservative group covered his lodging, but the ticket cost $2,903.56.
- A week later, he flew to Tulsa to tour the Brainerd Chemical Co. and stayed the weekend, for a flight cost of $1,980.34
- While on the road, Pruitt often stays at high-end hotels, according to travel records: the Kimpton in Salt Lake City, Le Meridien in Minneapolis, the Capital in Little Rock and the Michelangelo in New York.
Democrats in Congress and environmental groups have questioned Pruitt's expensive travel habits.
“What did American taxpayers get for Pruitt visiting the Vatican and getting photographed with European agency heads?” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, of last year’s Italy trip. “This was all for show.”
And Schaeffer does not accept the EPA's explanation for Pruitt's special travel needs or secret schedule:
“It is acutely paranoid,” Schaeffer said of the EPA’s refusal to disclose Pruitt’s whereabouts on any given day. “He’s a public official. His schedule should be publicly known.”