WASHINGTON – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday he’ll be seeking alternative accommodations — including potentially flying in coach class — on his “very next flight” amid an internal probe into his government travel.
Pruitt told CBS News’ “The Takeout” podcast that he’s instructed the agency to accommodate security needs — a frequent reason why the EPA justified his flight upgrades — “in all ways, alternate ways, up to and including flying coach, and that’s going to happen on my very next flight.”
Pruitt said that “there have been incidents on planes” and in airports that resulted in the previous decision to permit his first-class travel.
“These threats have been unprecedented from the very beginning and the quantity and type are unprecedented,” he continued.
Henry Barnet, director of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, recounted to Politico an example of the threats Pruitt is facing. Barnet said Pruitt was approached at the airport in Atlanta in October several times, including an incident with one individual yelling “‘Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment,’ those sort of terms,” while recording the incident on his cell phone.
A Washington Post analysis of EPA travel records shows Pruitt’s use of taxpayer funds on first-class flights and luxury hotels exceeded his predecessors.
Earlier this month, the House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy asked Pruitt to provide various documents related to his travels, following reports that Pruitt has traveled first class on multiple business-related trips.
“Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs. Instead, a waiver for each flight is required in order to fly first class or business class when traveling on official government business,” reads the letter from Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican.
The EPA inspector general announced last August that it was investigating Pruitt’s travel habits, including multiple trips he took to Oklahoma, where he previously served as the state attorney general.
The EPA often cited unspecified security concerns for the decision to permit Pruitt to fly first class on government business, records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project and The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act showed.
The former Oklahoma attorney general said the change will be occurring right away.