After being criticized for taking expensive, taxpayer-funded first class flights around the country and internationally, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said Wednesday that on his very next flight, he will be seated among the masses in coach class.
Pruitt told CBS News’ “The Takeout” podcast that he has already discussed his future airline seating with his security detail.
“There is a change occurring, you’re going to accommodate the security threats as they exist, you’re going to accommodate those in all ways, alternate ways, up to and including flying coach, and that is what’s going to happen on my very next flight,” Pruitt said.
Technically, this phrasing could imply either that Pruitt intends to sit coach on his next flight, or his security team will consider “security threats” and decide where Pruitt should sit. It’s also not clear when Pruitt’s “next flight” is because, unlike with previous EPA administrators, the agency doesn’t publish Pruitt’s daily schedule.
EPA documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal lavish spending on flights. In June 2017, Pruitt hopped from Washington, D.C., to New York City for $1,641.43. Over two days in July 2017, Pruitt spent $4,443 for trips to Birmingham and Atlanta. A trip to speak at the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank Meeting in Colorado Springs in May 2017 cost taxpayers $2,903.56.
Pruitt maintains that upon taking helm of the EPA, he initially did fly in coach class, but that quickly changed due to security threats. Specifically, media reports have indicated that people in coach confronted Pruitt for his controversial environmental policies.
“The threats I have faced are unprecedented,” said Pruitt during the podcast.
Pruitt brought along a printed out report from the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General — a division of the government responsible for oversight and preventing abuse. Reading from it, Pruitt cited that the Inspector General found Pruitt has faced “four to five times” the number of threats that Gina McCarthy, the previous EPA administrator, received.
Pruitt contends that due to such threats, his security detail requested that he sit in first class.
“They wanted me on a position on a plane to exit expeditiously if an incident arose, and that’s why the change happened,” he said.
Pruitt made his intention to fly coach on his next flight after House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy sent a letter to Pruitt’s office on February 20 requesting information on every single flight Pruitt had taken for government work over the course of the past year.
“Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs,” Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, wrote.