Former EPA chief's Italy trip cost thousands more than previously reported

Former EPA chief's Italy trip cost thousands more than previously reported
© Greg Nash

Former 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's lavish 2017 taxpayer-funded trip to Italy cost thousands of dollars more than previously reported, internal agency documents show.

The trip to Rome and the Vatican — which included first-class travel for Pruitt and his close aides, around-the-clock security and stays at a five-star hotel for all attending staff — ended up costing taxpayers $164,200, roughly 37 percent more than previously reported.

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The agency released the figure, which included $10,067 for a motorcade and $5,841 in hotel rooms for the drivers at the five-star Baglioni Hotel Regina in Rome, as part of a Freedom of Information Act request to the Environmental Integrity Project, an environmental watchdog group.

Previous reports estimated Pruitt's travel costs for the trip to be at least $120,000, which included the administrator's $7,003 round-trip flight. That price tag didn't include the $36,068 military flight he took from Washington to New York City before getting on a commercial airline.

Eric Schaeffer, the executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, compared the costs to the number of regulatory cuts undertaken by the EPA under the Trump administration.

“These new details about Scott Pruitt’s mismanagement and runaway spending show that he was abusing taxpayers even as he damaged their health by rolling back environmental regulations,” Schaeffer argued.

During his June 2017 trip to Italy, Pruitt spent 24 hours in Bologna attending a Group of Seven summit for environment ministers and met with various Vatican officials, including Cardinal George Pell, who later faced charges in Australia over alleged sexual abuse. The EPA kept the meeting and dinner with Pell off the official calendar.

Pruitt left the EPA this past July following months of controversy and intense congressional scrutiny over his expenses and ethics. Pruitt traveled nearly exclusively on first-class flights during his first year as administrator, citing security concerns.

He also enlisted a 24/7 security team making him the first EPA administrator to have security of such magnitude. The EPA's Office of Inspector General released a report Tuesday that found that the agency did not properly justify the need for round the clock protective detail and that the actions allowed costs to increase from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in an 11 month period.