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Democrats seek scrutiny of Pruitt's 1st-class travel

U.S. House Democrats are pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog to review the first-class travel of agency head Scott Pruitt.

In a Feb. 14 letter sent to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins, three House representatives asked for confirmation the inspector's office was probing Pruitt's travel and that it would look into recent reports that the administrator has a "blanket waiver" from federal standards that restrict first-class air travel for government officials.

An EPA spokesman on Feb. 13 said Pruitt had obtained a "blanket waiver" to fly first class on flights because of security concerns, though the EPA later walked back the claim, saying Pruitt submitted a waiver for each instance of travel.

A Feb. 11 report in The Washington Post showed that Pruitt took a first-class flight in June 2017 from Washington, D.C., to New York, which cost $1,641. Later that month, Pruitt and several of his staff took a military jet from Cincinnati to New York at a cost of $36,068 so the delegation could make a flight to Rome. A total of $90,000 in travel expenses were listed in EPA records for Pruitt and his aides during this period.

Amid criticism of his travel, Pruitt flew first class from Washington, D.C., to Boston Feb. 13, wrote Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Paul Tonko of New York and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

The Democrats asked the inspector general to include in his investigation an examination of how many times Pruitt has traveled domestically in first- or business-class and what the total expense of those tickets was; who granted the "blanket waiver" and to what extent travel policies were followed for its issuance and when it was issued; how "premium-class airfare" enhances the administrator's security compared to economy class airfare; the cost of travel for aides who flew with Pruitt; and any past issuance of similar waivers for EPA political appointees.

EPA did not respond for comment before press time.