EPA inspector general further expands probe into Pruitt travel

EPA inspector general further expands probe into Pruitt travel
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal inspector general is again expanding its investigation into the travel habits of agency head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards MORE.

An internal memo dated Jan. 10 alerts the agency of the amendment to the investigation, which expands the dates of travel covered in the probe to include Pruitt’s travel through the end of 2017. The memo noted that the decision to expand the probe came in response to “additional congressional requests.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE (D-Del.) requested the investigation include Pruitt’s December trip to Morocco, which reportedly cost $40,000 in taxpayer dollars.

In a Dec. 18 letter to the inspector general, Carper wrote that one purpose of Pruitt’s trip was to promote natural gas exports and that the trip should be scrutinized because the EPA does not oversee natural gas.

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The inspector general's memo notes that the objectives of the investigation remain the same: determining the “frequency, cost and extent” of Pruitt’s travel and whether agency policies and procedures were followed.

This is the second time the inspector general has expanded its probe into Pruitt’s travel habits. The probe was originally limited to his travel via noncommercial flights through July 31, which had cost more than $58,000.

The investigation was expanded in October to include his taxpayer-funded flights through the end of September.

The office is also looking into Pruitt’s April meeting with a coal mining industry group and his decision to have a $25,000 soundproof phone booth installed in his office.

The use of private flights by officials has plagued the Trump administration.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Former Ryan aide moves to K street Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE resigned last year over reports about his pricey travel habits and promised to pay back $52,000 to cover “his seat” on the flights.

And the Treasury Department has looked into a flight taken by Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: Facebook weighs crackdown on anti-vaccine content | Lyft challenges Trump fuel standards rollback | Illinois tries to woo Amazon | New round of China trade talks next week On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week Treasury sanctions top Maduro allies in Venezuela MORE that cost taxpayers at least $25,000.