Overnight Energy: Pruitt’s security cost $3.5m in first year | Watchdog clears Perry's use of military, charter flights

Overnight Energy: Pruitt’s security cost $3.5m in first year | Watchdog clears Perry's use of military, charter flights
© Greg Nash

EPA SPENT $3.5 MILLION FOR PRUITT'S SECURITY: Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittNew disclosures show Pruitt spent nearly K on 'tactical' pants and polos: report Overnight Energy: Inhofe defends Pruitt after criticisms | Agency releases study on water contaminant | Trump rescinds Obama ocean policy Hollywood goes low when it takes on Trump MORE spent nearly $3.5 million on security during his first year as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to an agency breakdown released Friday.

Pruitt's round the clock security detail racked up the high costs through both travel and payroll expenses -- costing taxpayers more than $760,000 in travel and more than $2.7 million in pay during the administrator's first year.

The costs for his detail, which have accompanied Pruitt on both international trips like Morocco and Italy and in the U.S. to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl, are significantly higher than the amounts previous administrators spent, the data shows.

In comparison, EPA spent just $1.6 million on security for former EPA head Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyEPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames staff for controversies | Ex-Obama official to head new Harvard climate center | Electric vehicles on road expected to triple Ex-Obama EPA chief to lead new center for climate change at Harvard MORE during her last year in the post.

The EPA maintains that Pruitt's increased security is necessary due to higher threats against the administrator.

Why it matters: Pruitt has recently been challenged for his claims that the security detail is a response to security risks. Reports showed that he received 24-7 security starting his first day in office. Internal emails obtained by The Hill showed that the Trump transition team set up the heightened security due to fears that Pruitt's anticipated iron fist against EPA regulations could generate public ire.

Read more here.

 

Happy Friday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. We're here with a friendly reminder that if you're flying anywhere for the three-day weekend by private jet, make sure you get prior approval!

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill

 

WATCHDOG APPROVES PERRY'S MILITARY, CHARTER FLIGHTS: Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets DNC to reject fossil fuel company donations Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE follows all relevant policies and laws when he used charter or military aircraft for five flights last year, the Department of Energy's (DOE) internal watchdog found.

The DOE's Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a Friday report that DOE "had not developed formal policies and procedures to justify and approve" the use of non-commercial aircraft for official travel, and investigators recommended that the department write such policies.

But otherwise, Perry followed the law and general policies from the White House's Office of Management and Budget, the report concluded. It also looked at four more trips on non-commercial aircraft by political employees in 2016, under the Obama administration.

"Although we did not find any instances where inappropriate trips were taken on Government aircraft, the suggested improvements should reduce the risk that Government aircraft is authorized in the future without appropriate justification and help ensure transparency in the Department's travel processes," April Stephenson, the deputy assistant inspector general, wrote to Perry.

DOE welcomed the Friday report.

"The Department has always believed that there has been no misuse of government aircraft by Secretary Perry and DOE staff. We appreciate the Inspector General's review which found nothing improper about the few instances where Secretary Perry and DOE staff have utilized non-commercial travel," said spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes.

Read more.

 

THIS WEEK'S BIG STORIES: The EPA's Pruitt held a National Leadership Summit on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and reducing human exposure to them in drinking water. Read more here about what PFAS are and why EPA is moving toward potential action on the issue.

But any potential good press about the summit was overshadowed by controversy over the media and public access to the forum.

Reporters from at least three news outlets were denied entry to a Tuesday morning session, and EPA guards physically pushed one of them out of the building.

The EPA then opened that afternoon's session to the press, but the next day's events were closed off.

Agency officials maintained that with limited space, only a few reporters could fit in the room for the Tuesday events. As for Wednesday, the meeting was intended to include only federal, state and local officials.

In other Pruitt news, The Hill discovered that the EPA had spent at least $9,600 to outfit his office with desks, artwork and other items. A group of House Democrats are pushing for more transparency on Pruitt's legal defense fund and EPA is extending the comment period on his proposal to restrict the types of scientific findings the agency can use.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are using the increase in oil and gasoline prices as an election-year critique against President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily immigration detention centers could be at capacity within days: report Trump likely to meet with Putin in July: report DOJ requests military lawyers to help prosecute immigration crimes: report MORE.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

More than a dozen coal barges broke loose on a river near Pittsburgh, with some sinking and hitting a bridge, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The park system in Louisville, Ky., has again ranked among the worst in the country, WFPL reports.

Some mussels caught in Puget Sound are testing positive for opioids, KIRO reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories...

-McDonald's rejects call to review use of plastic straws

-Pruitt spent $3.5 million on security during first year as EPA head

-Controversial Alaska mining project loses potential investor

-OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump

-Watchdog clears Perry's use of non-commercial flights, but advises policy change

-EPA grapples with potential health threat in drinking water