House Dems want watchdog to probe Pruitt’s first-class flying


Leading House Democrats want the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog to look into EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Regulation: EPA sued over water rule delay | House passes bill to ease ObamaCare calorie rule | Regulators talk bitcoin | Patient groups oppose FDA ‘right to try’ bill Overnight Energy: US projected to be net energy exporter | Water rule lawsuits roll in | GOP chair challenges cancer agency over pesticides States, greens sue Trump over Obama EPA water rule delay MORE’s premium-class flights on the taxpayer’s dime.

Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), the Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, wrote the EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins about the matter Wednesday.

Elkins is already investigating all of Pruitt’s official travel through 2017. But Pallone and two other top Democrats on the panel want to ensure that Elkins is probing recent revelations that Pruitt has flown first or business class repeatedly, and he has a “blanket exemption” to rules limiting premium-class flights by federal employees.

“Administrator Pruitt’s many first-class flights around the country at taxpayers’ expense raise renewed concerns of secrecy and waste at the Trump EPA,” Pallone wrote along with Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteGOP chairman blasts DEA over reduced opioid enforcement Dems demand answers from Trump admin about family planning program Diabetes research at risk due to funding lapse, groups warn MORE (Colo.) and Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoHouse Dems look to update drinking water laws House passes chemical safety overhaul After Flint, Dems question state’s use of CDC funds MORE (N.Y.).

“In light of these recent reports, we would expect your ongoing review would determine whether Administrator Pruitt’s ‘blanket waiver’ for premium-class travel is in compliance with all applicable regulations, policies and procedures.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Pruitt has spent thousands of dollars on premium-class flights. The EPA later said that Pruitt has a “blanket exemption” to restrictions that usually preclude such flights on the taxpayer’s dime.

Pruitt said the first-class flights are necessary for security reasons, and he isn’t involved in making the decisions.

“There have been instances, unfortunately, during my time as administrator, as I’ve flown … of interaction that’s not been the best,” he told New Hampshire television station WMUR Tuesday.

“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“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.”

Elkins’ office launched its probe into Pruitt’s travel last year at the behest of the same Democratic lawmakers, after EPA records showed that he frequently traveled to his home state of Oklahoma for official engagements and stayed there for weekends.

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