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 GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions Trump says Gowdy can't join his legal team 'for a couple months' MORE (R-S.C.) is requesting detailed answers from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSierra Club sues EPA over claim that climate change 'is 50 to 75 years out' EPA on 'forever chemicals': Let them drink polluted water EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' 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 John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points 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.