EPA chief Scott Pruitt says he has to fly first class because a ‘toxic’ political environment puts him in danger

Sec. Scott Pruitt

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Sec. Scott Pruitt
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  • Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said that he regularly flies first class due to unspecified security concerns, which he argued are a result of a “toxic” political environment.
  • “We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday.
  • The Washington Post reported Monday that Pruitt regularly spends multiples more than his predecessors on travel and security.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said that he regularly flies first class – spending multiples more than his predecessors on travel – due to unspecified security concerns, which he argued are a result of a “toxic” political environment.

According to federal regulations, agencies can authorize first-class travel only in specific and rare circumstances, including if the flight is at least 14 hours, if the government official has a medical disability, or when security officers determine that the “use of coach class accommodations would endanger your life or government property,” the Post reported.

Pruitt said Tuesday that the travel decisions were made based on security assessments.

“Unfortunately … we’ve had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe,” Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday.

He went on: “We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment. 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.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that Pruitt regularly spends thousands of taxpayer dollars on domestic and international airfare, staying at upscale hotels, for trips that are often not entirely relevant to his work as a Cabinet official.

For example, Pruitt spent more than $1,600 on a first-class plane ticket from Washington to New York last June in order to make two brief television appearances to promote the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt’s ticket cost six times more than the coach seats purchased for Pruitt’s two aides on the same flight.

Just a few weeks prior, Pruitt spent about $2,900 on a flight to Colorado Springs in order to deliver the keynote address at a conservative think tank meeting. The controversial EPA chief also travels with a much larger security detail than his predecessors.

Pruitt and his top aides spent $90,000 for travel in the first weeks of June alone, according to receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Pruitt said that he is not responsible for making decisions about his travel accommodations, telling the Union Leader that his chief of staff and security team make the determinations. The EPA also generally does not announce Pruitt’s travel schedule ahead of time, also citing security concerns.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General began conducting investigations into Pruitt’s travel and security detail last fall, after congressional Democrats raised the alarm.