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E&C Democrats Request Review of EPA Administrator Pruitt’s Frequent Travel at Taxpayer Expense

Jul 28, 2017
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Subcommittee on Environment Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Inspector General today requesting a review of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma at the taxpayers’ expense. 

According to press reports, Administrator Pruitt traveled to Oklahoma for 43 days, or nearly half of all days during March, April, and May of 2017, at a cost of more than $15,000.  EPA records indicate Administrator Pruitt attended “informational meetings” during those periods while in Oklahoma, although records indicate that a trip to Oklahoma might last three or five days with only one such meeting listed during Pruitt’s time away from Washington.

“The Committee has a longstanding interest in ensuring effective agency controls regarding leadership and staff travel and reducing the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse,” the members wrote to the Inspector General.  “Americans deserve an EPA Administrator who devotes agency resources to protecting human health and the environment, and they have a right to know if Administrator Pruitt is inappropriately making taxpayers foot the bill for his trips to Oklahoma.” 

The Democratic Committee leaders wrote that they appreciated previous work conducted by the EPA’s Inspector General in 2015 that found weaknesses in EPA’s management controls for travel. 

The letter requests that the Inspector General’s review addresses whether EPA’s applicable policies and procedures are sufficiently designed to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, and whether Administrator Pruitt’s travel was in compliance with all applicable policies and procedures. 

Full text of the letter is available below:

July 28, 2017

 

The Honorable Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.

Inspector General

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20460

 

Dear Mr. Elkins:

            We are writing today to request that you conduct a review of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adherence to policies and procedures for Administrator travel and whether EPA’s applicable oversight controls are sufficient to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.  This request follows numerous troubling reports that Administrator Scott Pruitt frequently traveled to and from his home state of Oklahoma at the taxpayers’ expense. 

            Administrator Pruitt reportedly traveled to Oklahoma for 43 days,  or nearly half of all days during March, April, and May of 2017.   According to reports, his travel, which included both weekend trips to his home and official business in the state,  cost more than $15,000, and frequently occurred at the taxpayers’ expense.   For example, reports indicate EPA paid $1,980 for just one of Administrator Pruitt’s commercial airline tickets.   Agency records indicate Administrator Pruitt attended “informational meetings” while in Oklahoma, although news reports noted “[t]hough a trip to Oklahoma might last three or five days, it was not unusual for only one such meeting to be listed during Pruitt’s time away from Washington.”  

            The Committee has a longstanding interest in ensuring effective agency controls regarding leadership and staff travel and reducing the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse.  Additionally, the Committee recognizes and appreciates previous work conducted by your office in 2015 that found weaknesses in EPA’s management controls for travel.   Therefore, we ask that you conduct a review that addresses whether EPA’s applicable policies and procedures are now sufficiently designed to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, and whether Administrator Pruitt’s travel was in compliance with all applicable policies and procedures.  We request that your review include a determination of the following:

1.         Were all applicable agency travel policies and procedures, including applicable ethics reviews, correctly followed for all of Administrator Pruitt’s travel to and from Oklahoma to date? 

2.         Does the Executive Approval Framework (i.e., subordinate’s approval of a superior’s travel) apply to the creation and approval of travel authorizations and travel vouchers for Administrator Pruitt?  Is the framework effective, and how could the framework be improved?

3.         Has the Agency’s Cincinnati Finance Center, or any other EPA office, created or reviewed reports for Administrator Pruitt’s repeated travel to Oklahoma?  Have any irregularities been submitted to the designated position within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer?  If so, what actions were taken in response?

4.         For all trips to and from Oklahoma to date, which EPA staff and security personnel travelled with or in advance of Administrator Pruitt?  What was the total cost of travel for Administrator Pruitt and those individuals, and were all applicable agency ethics reviews and travel policies and procedures correctly followed?

5.         According to Administrator Pruitt’s travel documents, the Heritage Foundation paid for his hotel room for a May trip to Colorado Springs.   In what instances can non-governmental organizations pay for Administrator Pruitt’s travel expenses, including, but not limited to, airline tickets and hotel accommodations?  To what extent did this occur?  When this occurred, were all applicable travel procedures and ethics reviews correctly followed?

6.         When EPA purchased premium class travel for Administrator Pruitt, were all necessary procedures followed and justifications provided?

7.         Are EPA’s policies and procedures sufficiently designed to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in agency travel?  How can EPA strengthen its policies, procedures, and oversight controls with respect to Administrator travel to prevent excessive trips, ineligible travel costs, and fraud, waste, and abuse?

Americans deserve an EPA Administrator who devotes agency resources to protecting human health and the environment, and they have a right to know if Administrator Pruitt is inappropriately making taxpayers foot the bill for his trips to Oklahoma.  We appreciate your prompt and thorough review of these issues.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Jon Monger of the minority committee staff at (202) 225-3641.

Sincerely,

 

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Ranking Member

           

Diana DeGette

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Oversight and  Investigations

 

Paul D. Tonko

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Environment   

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