Gowdy: EPA hasn’t complied with records request for Pruitt’s travel

Gowdy: EPA hasn’t complied with records request for Pruitt’s travel
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t given congressional investigators all of the information they requested about 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’s official travel spending, Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.) said in a letter on Wednesday.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote to Pruitt asking for the remaining documents about whether Pruitt received waivers to fly first class on the taxpayers’ dime.

The EPA provided Gowdy’s staff in March with vouchers for his flights since he started at the agency last year, and provided additional information last week.

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“Nevertheless, the EPA has failed to produce all of the documents requested on February 20, 2018,” Gowdy wrote.

Gowdy also asked for various records relating to Pruitt’s condo rental last year from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 for each day he slept there, including “all documents and communications” related to the lease.

The committee announced late last week that Gowdy was investigating the lease, which some Democrats and ethics experts say was unethical and illegal. The EPA says the lease was aboveboard, and ethics officials said — after news reports about it came out — that it was not a "gift" from a lobbyist under federal standards.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the agency would respond to Gowdy “through the proper channel.”

Gowdy announced in January that he would step down from Congress after his term expires early next year.

He started looking into Pruitt's travel costs in February, bucking the trend of many congressional committees treading lightly in conducting oversight of the Trump administration.

Pruitt spent more than $100,000 in his first year on the job flying first class, according to records the EPA provided to Gowdy’s committee.

Federal employees are generally prohibited from flying any class other than coach, with few exceptions. The rules require waivers each time an employee wants to fly in a premium class.

The EPA has justified the costs by arguing that first class is safer for Pruitt, since it is easier to exit the plane. Pruitt’s personal security detail made the call.

“The quantity and type of threats that I face are unprecedented,” Pruitt told CBS News’s Major Garrett in February. “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.”

The EPA initially said Pruitt had a “blanket waiver” from the federal rules restricting first-class travel, due to security concerns. But the agency later walked that back, saying ethics officials give him waivers on a case-by-case basis.

Pruitt committed, after news of the high costs of his travel came out earlier this year, to flying coach as much as possible.

A pair of Democratic senators Tuesday questioned Pruitt's justifications for the security-related expenditures, saying they obtained analyses from the EPA’s homeland security office and the Secret Service that undermined the arguments that Pruitt needs measures like first-class travel and a 24/7 security detail.