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E&C Democrats Demand Justification for Pruitt’s Luxury Travel

Feb 20, 2018
Press Release
“Americans deserve an EPA Administrator more dedicated to first-class protection of human health and the environment than to luxury travel at taxpayer expense.”

Energy and Commerce Democratic leaders sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today demanding answers on outrageous reports of Pruitt’s luxury travel at taxpayer expense.  According to multiple press reports, Pruitt has repeatedly traveled in first-class at taxpayer expense and stayed in luxury hotels despite federal standards that limit government employees from purchasing first-class travel.  The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY).

“To date, your Agency has failed to provide a clear explanation as to whether your travel since becoming Administrator complies with all applicable federal regulations and Agency procedures,” the Democrats wrote to Administrator Pruitt. 

Last week, Administrator Pruitt was spotted flying first-class from Washington to Boston just one day after the Trump Administration proposed slashing EPA’s budget by more than 23 percent.  Administrator Pruitt has attempted to justify the luxury expense by noting that he has been confronted by people in the airport numerous times, however, it is unclear why this justifies purchasing first-class tickets.  These new justifications also contradict previous explanations of this questionable travel as a way of providing the opportunity to hear directly from people affected by EPA.

The Democrats continued, “It remains unclear how any possible security threats warranted the frequent issuance of waivers authorizing you to fly first-class on domestic flights, or how sitting in a first-class seat is safer than sitting in economy class.”

According to Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, the retired pilot who once landed a damaged commercial aircraft in the Hudson River and who now serves as a safety and aviation expert for CBS News, “first-class is not safer than economy.”

The Democrats are also seeking clarification on multiple conflicting statements from EPA on whether Administrator Pruitt has received a “blanket waiver” allowing him to purchase first-class and business-class tickets, which is illegal under federal travel regulations.  An EPA spokesman later retracted the “blanket waiver” claim and instead stated that Administrator Pruitt submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class for every trip. 

“The Agency has similarly offered shifting explanations to date regarding whether or not you have complied with all applicable federal regulations and agency policies and procedures, raising serious questions about the veracity of the information provided by your office,” the three Democratic Committee leaders continued in their letter.    

As part of their inquiry, the Democrats are requesting documents and answers to a series of questions, including:

  • Provide a list of all instances to date where Pruitt traveled by air domestically in first or business-class, including the total expense of these tickets. 
  • Has the Agency conducted any analysis to indicate enhanced security is achieved by premium travel? 
  • How do interactions with the American public at airports necessitate purchasing first-class plane tickets?
  • Was any of Administrator Pruitt’s first-class or business-class travel authorized or otherwise approved by the White House? 

A copy of the letter is available HERE.