EPA: Pruitt's security detail flies first class

EPA: Pruitt's security detail flies first class
© Greg Nash

The 24-hour security detail tasked with protecting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Court rejects new effort to stop kids' climate lawsuit | Baltimore is latest city to sue over climate change | EPA staffers worried about toxic chemical in Pruitt's desk Pruitt staffers worried about toxic chemical in his desk Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland MORE also flies with him in first class, the EPA confirmed Wednesday.

In a letter sent to Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday, the EPA confirmed that Pruitt's security detail flies in luxury class when he travels. 

"On past trips, his protective service detail accompanied him in first class," the letter reads.

The agency cites security threats as the reason for Pruitt's upgraded travel and says the same government waiver the administrator uses to fly noncoach applies to his security team.

"These circumstances include, but are not limited to, situations when the '[use] of coach-class accommodations would endanger [one's] life or Government property' or an agent on protective detail is 'accompanying an individual authorized to use other than coach-class accommodations,'" EPA Associate Administrator Troy Lyons wrote.

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The letter cites ease of egress as the main security-related reason why Pruitt and his security team use first class. 

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Protective Service Detail has identified specific, ongoing threats associated with the Administrator's air travel and, therefore, shifted his class based on certain security protocols that require him to be near the front of the plane," read the letter. "This location allows the Administrator's security agents to expeditiously exit with him upon the occurrence of a threat."

The letter was a response to a request from committee Democrats last month regarding reports of Pruitt’s first-class travel at taxpayer expense.

Upon receiving EPA's letter, Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) along with Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage Overnight Health Care: NJ gets its own health insurance mandate | Pushback over Trump pick for family planning program | GOP senator pushes FDA on implementing 'right to try' | Opioid prescriptions fall for fifth year MORE (D-Colo.), and Environment Subcommittee ranking member Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoA bipartisan approach to protecting racehorses Overnight Energy: House votes to advance Yucca Mountain nuke waste plan | EPA won't reverse danger findings for paint stripping chemical | County sues oil companies over climate House votes to advance Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project MORE (D-N.Y.) warned Pruitt to be prepared for his next Capitol Hill appearance.

“When Mr. Pruitt appears before the Energy and Commerce Committee next month, he must be prepared to explain why U.S. taxpayers should foot the bill for his lavish travel habits," they said in a joint statement Wednesday.

EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox said the security decisions were not unique to Pruitt.

“Security decisions are made by EPA’s Protective Service Detail and are similar to security protocol across the federal government,” he said.

The EPA's letter is the first time the agency has confirmed that Pruitt's team flies the same class as he does during travel. Official documents released by the agency earlier this week showed that Pruitt's security detail often adds significant costs to his travel. During a trip to Italy and the Vatican last June, Pruitt's security cost taxpayers more than $30,000, according to the travel vouchers.