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 PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas 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) McCarthyCalifornia commits to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 Overnight Energy: Watchdog faults EPA over Pruitt security costs | Court walks back order on enforcing chemical plant rule | IG office to probe truck pollution study EPA unveils new Trump plan gutting Obama power plant rules 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 TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency 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 ZinkeTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Big-game hunters infuriated by Trump elephant trophy debacle Interior moves ahead with opening wildlife refuge next to contaminated nuclear site MORE, Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVeterans group sues to block advisers known as ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd’ from influencing VA Mar-a-Lago insiders provided input on VA policy, personnel decisions: report Ahead of speech, Kansas City newspaper urges Trump to listen to veterans MORE and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonKavanaugh an excellent fit to continue the Supreme Court's honored tradition GOP strategist: Republican candidates distancing themselves from Trump could backfire in midterms Ethics watchdog requests probe into Trump officials traveling to campaign events MORE have each had spending-related controversies, while former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceWhite House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report Overnight Health Care: CBO finds bill delaying parts of ObamaCare costs B | Drug CEO defends 400 percent price hike | HHS declares health emergency ahead of hurricane HHS should look into Azar's close ties to the drug industry MORE resigned due to a scandal regarding his use of charter planes.

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