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Gowdy presses EPA chief for answers on his first-class travel

Gowdy presses EPA chief for answers on his first-class travel
© Greg Nash

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyThe Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Sunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears MORE (R-S.C.) is requesting detailed answers from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA finalizes 'secret science' rule, limiting use of public health research | Trump administration finalizes rollback of migratory bird protections | Kerry raises hopes for focus on climate security at NSC EPA finalizes 'secret science' rule, limiting use of public health research White House appears to conclude review of EPA 'secret science' rule MORE over his consistent use of first- and business-class travel on government-funded trips.

In a letter addressed to Pruitt on Tuesday, the Republican congressman points out concerns over the EPA chief's reported use of a "blanket waiver" to fly first class, a method he calls prohibited.

"Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs. Instead, a waiver for each flight is required in order to fly first or business class when traveling on official government business," Gowdy wrote.

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Gowdy also requested details on all air travel that Pruitt has taken since being sworn in as President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE's EPA chief last year, asking Pruitt to detail flight destinations, costs, travel companions — including security detail — and the official reason for his travel.

The Oversight chairman additionally asked Pruitt to provide all documentation of individual or blanket waivers he received for his travel. 

Gowdy requested all of the details be provided to the committee by March 6.

The EPA did not return The Hill's request for comment.

Gowdy announced late last month that he would retire from Congress, becoming the latest GOP chairman to opt not to seek reelection. The surprise announcement came months after he took over the helm of the Oversight panel.

The South Carolina Republican, who is perhaps best known for overseeing the House Intelligence Committee investigating former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSamantha Power's Herculean task: Turning a screw with a rubber screwdriver Beau Biden Foundation to deny lobbyist donations, make major donors public Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration MORE's handling of the Benghazi attacks, said he would return to working in the justice system.

Pruitt has made headlines in the past few months over news that he primarily uses first class and business class when flying, including on short destination flights such as between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Last week, EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox told The Hill that Pruitt used a "blanket waiver" that allowed him to fly first class. He later amended the statement to Politico, saying the EPA submitted a waiver for Pruitt on every trip.

The law stipulates that government employees must fly coach unless they are granted a specific waiver.