House Dems want watchdog to probe Pruitt’s first-class flying

House Dems want watchdog to probe Pruitt’s first-class flying
© Greg Nash

Leading House Democrats want the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog to look into EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks MORE’s premium-class flights on the taxpayer’s dime.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Push on 'surprise' medical bills hits new roadblocks Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost MORE (N.J.), the Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, wrote to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins about the matter Wednesday.

Elkins is already investigating all of Pruitt’s official travel through 2017. But Pallone and two other top Democrats on the panel want to ensure that Elkins is probing recent revelations that Pruitt has flown first or business class repeatedly, and he has a “blanket exemption” to rules limiting premium-class flights by federal employees.

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“Administrator Pruitt’s many first-class flights around the country at taxpayers’ expense raise renewed concerns of secrecy and waste at the Trump EPA,” Pallone wrote along with Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteLawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research MORE (Colo.) and Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoDemocrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA Schumer slams Ross for 'thuggish behavior' over reportedly threatening to fire officials Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide MORE (N.Y.).

“In light of these recent reports, we would expect your ongoing review would determine whether Administrator Pruitt’s ‘blanket waiver’ for premium-class travel is in compliance with all applicable regulations, policies and procedures,” they wrote.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Pruitt has spent thousands of dollars on premium-class flights. The EPA later said Pruitt has a “blanket exemption” to restrictions that usually preclude such flights on the taxpayers' dime.

Pruitt said the first-class flights are necessary for security reasons, and he isn’t involved in making the decisions.

“There have been instances, unfortunately, during my time as administrator, as I've flown ... of interaction that's not been the best,” he told New Hampshire TV station WMUR on Tuesday.

“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “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.”

Elkins’s office launched its probe into Pruitt’s travel last year at the behest of the same Democratic lawmakers, after EPA records showed that he frequently traveled to his home state of Oklahoma for official engagements and stayed there for weekends.