EPA chief makes frequent trips back to Oklahoma: report

EPA chief makes frequent trips back to Oklahoma: report
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Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has reportedly traveled to his home state of Oklahoma for at least 43 of the 92 days between the months of March, April and May.

The Environmental Integrity Project watchdog group obtained copies of Pruitt's travel records, which revealed frequent trips and extended weekends in Tulsa, where Pruitt's family lives, Reuters reported Monday.

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Critics claim that Pruitt is using taxpayer money to make trips to the Sooner State in an attempt to build political relationships instead of focusing on his top role at the EPA, Reuters reported.

EPA officials defended the visits, saying the head administrator pays for his trips home to Tulsa out of his own pocket.

"Administrator Pruitt works long hours and is available around the clock," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said. "He is extremely focused and disciplined, which is evident by the fact that he spearheaded over two dozen significant regulatory actions since being sworn in."

The travel records show that Pruitt often attended meetings with representatives in the oil and gas industry in cities, and then attended or made an appearance at an event before he flew to Tulsa for "extended weekends."

While Pruitt paid for parts of his direct trips home, it is unclear if he paid for all the costs related to his Tulsa travels, according to Reuters. 

The cost of the travel reportedly totaled more than $12,000, the Environmental Integrity Project told the news wire, but that cost did not include the additional traveling cost of his staff or security detail. 

Reuters reported that former EPA officials viewed the frequent, long trips that took Pruitt away from D.C. as unusual.

Trump's decision to name Pruitt as the head of the EPA was controversial with environmental activists because of lawsuits Pruitt filed against the agency when he was Oklahoma's attorney general.