By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt and staffers billed taxpayers nearly $200,000 for his trips over six months last year, including 10 visits to Pruitt’s former home city of Tulsa, according to travel vouchers obtained by an environmental organization.
Pruitt is one of several Trump administration officials who have drawn attention over travel costs, including Pruitt’s frequent travel at first-class rates. Pruitt earlier this week said a “toxic environment politically” required first-class travel and protection from his 24-hour security detail.
The Environmental Integrity Project environmental group obtained the travel vouchers, which cover trips by Pruitt and 14 staffers, through open-records requests. Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesman, acknowledged but did not otherwise immediately respond to emails and a call seeking comment Friday.
Pruitt is a former Oklahoma attorney general and longtime Tulsa-area resident. All of his expensed trips were into the airport there, including for events in or closer to Oklahoma City, the state’s capital and site of the biggest state airport.
Eric Schaeffer, founder of the group that obtained the records, called the frequent taxpayer-funded trips back home “a little squirrelly.”
“You can’t do what you can do as maybe a corporate lawyer,” as head of the EPA, Schaeffer said. “You’re putting one meeting on the calendar so it’s official business.”
The costs included $138,969 overall for trips involving commercial airfare from March to August, including $93,308 for flights, according to the environmental group’s records.
Another $56,000 went to charter flights. Among those was a $14,434 charter to carry Pruitt and staffers from Tulsa, in far eastern Oklahoma, to Oklahoma’s western panhandle to meet with farmers. That trip and some others have been previously reported by news media.
Most of the reported expenses did not appear to include travel costs of the unknown number of security guards traveling with Pruitt.
The EPA has said all the charter flights were necessary and previously approved by ethics lawyers.
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