Cost of Pruitt's Italy trip rises above $84,000

Cost of Pruitt's Italy trip rises above $84,000

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election EPA pushes forward plan to increase ethanol mix in gasoline Trump: The solitary executive MORE spent more than $30,000 on security related expenses during his travel to Italy last summer, official documents show.

New EPA travel documents show Pruitt’s personal security detail racked up $30,553.80 in travel expenses between June 5 and 12 of last year. Added to previously disclosed costs, the documents put the total taxpayer cost of the trip above $84,000.

During that time period, Pruitt was visiting Italy for meetings at the Vatican and to meet with international energy ministers at a summit. The administrator heavily photographed and tweeted about his time abroad. 

Travel vouchers previously obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) put the cost to taxpayers above $53,000 for the Italy trip, but did not include costs for his 24-hour security detail.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the cost for Pruitt’s security detail followed protocol.

“Administrator Pruitt’s security detail followed the same procedures for the G7 environmental meeting in Italy that were used during EPA Administrators Stephen Johnson, Lisa Jackson, and Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Overnight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule MORE’s trips to Italy. EPA’s security procedures have not deviated over the past 14 years,” Wilcox said.

Pruitt’s own first-class tickets for the trip cost more than $7,000 and included a return flight on Emirates, an airline that boasts one of the most luxurious first-class services in the world.

Pruitt and his aides also took a military plane from Cincinnati to New York City in order to catch the Rome flight after an infrastructure event with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE. If that $36,000 flight were included in the total for the Italy trip, it would cost more than $120,000.

An EPA spokesperson previously said the first-class travel was approved through a waiver.

The EIP first obtained the new travel documents Monday after filing a lawsuit against the EPA in September to compel a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Their initial FOIA request, filed in August, requested “records of expenditures for all travel outside of Washington, DC by Administrator Pruitt, as well as any EPA staff that accompanied Administrator Pruitt” on his Italy trip.

“That’s a lot of money for Mr. Pruitt to tour the Vatican, pose for photos, and tell his European counterparts that global warming doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t even include salary costs for everyone who signed up for this tour,” said Eric Schaeffer, the EIP's director and former director of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement, in a statement. 

The new documents come after significant scrutiny and criticism of Pruitt for his travel costs. The EPA’s Office of Inspector General has a number of probes into Pruitt’s travel, including his use of a round-the-clock security team.

Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour detail, a decision he said was made by security officials. The detail cost more than $830,000 in his first three months in office, E&E News reported.

The administrator has also faced criticism for flying luxury class during business travel. During much of his tenure at the EPA, Pruitt has only flown first or business class, which the agency argued was necessary for security purposes.

“The quantity and type of threats that I face are unprecedented. They wanted me on a position on the plane to be able to exit expeditiously if an incident arose, and that’s why the change arose,” Pruitt said of his security detail in an interview last month with CBS News’s Major Garrett.

Pruitt has joined numerous Cabinet secretaries in attracting criticism for their use of taxpayer money.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal investigation Acting Interior chief moves to protect access to public lands Overnight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power MORE, Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinTrump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary: report Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? It’s time to end the scare tactics and get to work for our veterans MORE and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHousing and health care go hand-in-hand Carson's calendar includes trips to Florida on Fridays: report The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE have each had spending-related controversies, while former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceBottom Line Trump: The solitary executive Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? MORE resigned due to a scandal regarding his use of charter planes.

--This report was updated at 1:33 p.m.