Pruitt defends first-class air travel

Pruitt defends first-class air travel
© Greg Nash

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke left some details off public calendar: report EPA watchdog faults ‘management weaknesses’ in Flint water crisis House completes first half of 2019 spending bills MORE said he sometimes flies first class on airplanes due to decisions by his security detail.

Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday that he’s had some “incidents” while traveling previously, so his security team sometimes has him fly first class, including the day he spoke to the newspaper.

“Unfortunately ... we've had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe,” Pruitt said said in an interview with the Union Leader.

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“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,” he said.

But Pruitt told the newspaper the he is not part of the decisions regarding travel arrangements.

“I'm not involved in any of those decisions," he said. "Those are all made by the [security] detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff.”

The newspaper did not report whether Pruitt specified what aspects of first-class seating on scheduled commercial airliners make it more secure than coach.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Pruitt has flown first class or on military jets on the taxpayers' dime on numerous occasions.

In June, he flew first class from Washington, D.C., to New York City at a cost of more than $1,600, just for his ticket, according to the Post. His travel reportedly costed at least $90,000 that month.

Pruitt confirmed to the Union Leader that he flew first class Tuesday from Washington, D.C., to Boston, on his way to New Hampshire to meet with Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Politico first reported on his travel choice earlier Tuesday.

Pruitt and his family have received far more threats than previous EPA leaders. E&E News reported that the EPA’s inspector general opened about 70 investigations into threats in 2017, about double the previous year.

In response, Pruitt and the EPA have taken additional security measures that his predecessors haven’t.

He has a 24-hour security detail involving dozens of employees; he’s installed a soundproof booth in his office for phone conversations; he had his office swept for surveillance bugs; and his staff frequently refuses to disclose his schedule in advance, among other measures.