House Oversight Committee Chair Launches Investigation of EPA Administrator’s Travel Spending

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, Republican from South Carolina, Demands to Know Cost and Justifications for Scott Pruitt’s First Class Flights

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy, Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, has launched an investigation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s expensive travel habits, demanding details from his fellow Republican about the justifications for Pruitt’s first-class tickets, which were first revealed by the Environmental Integrity Project and The Washington Post.

“We appreciate Chairman Gowdy’s willingness to look into Administrator Pruitt’s travel habits and we look forward to seeing the results of the investigation,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, whose Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against EPA produced travel records cited by The Washington Post in a front-page story about Pruitt’s first-class flights on February 12.

Congressman Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, is a former federal prosecutor who led the Benghazi investigations into Hillary Clinton. In a letter to Pruitt, Gowdy demanded specific answers from Pruitt on his total airfare costs and destinations; whether his tickets were coach or first class; whether EPA granted Pruitt individual waivers for each flight to allow Pruitt to fly in first class; the “official agency reason for the travel”;  the names of all other EPA employees, including security guards, who accompanied Pruitt on first class flights; and any supporting documentation to justify waivers from the rule that federal employees must fly coach.

“Federal regulations require government travelers to obtain approval or authorization from their agency to use accommodations other than coach-class when traveling on official business,” Congressman Gowdy wrote to Pruitt. “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.”

The letter is available on the committee’s website.

Congressman Gowdy is demanding answers from Pruitt on the travel questions by 5 pm on March 6.

Through a series of open records lawsuits against EPA, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) obtained public records that showed that Pruitt has frequently traveled to his home in Oklahoma on the taxpayers’ dime. Records show Pruitt also often flew first class and used expensive charter flights, even though federal rules require coach flights in most cases.

The EPA documents obtained by the organization showed $197,337 in total travel costs for Pruitt and EPA employees on Pruitt’s trips from March 6 through August 10.  These costs did not include the price of travel for Pruitt’s security guards, with EIP continuing to request those records. Congressman Gowdy has now also demanded information on the travel costs of Pruitt’s security guards.

The public records that EIP obtained can be found on the EIP’s website here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 15-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington D.C., dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.

Media Contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, or (202) 888-2703