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Republican lawmaker probes EPA chief's 1st-class travel

The chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for more information regarding Administrator Scott Pruitt's first-class and business-class travel.

In a letter dated Feb. 20, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina requested documents and information on the flights Pruitt has taken for official business since Feb. 17, 2017, including details regarding the class of ticket used, the cost of the trip and the names of any staff that may have traveled with him. Gowdy also asked for additional information on any first-class or business-class trips Pruitt may have taken, such as whether a waiver was issued to approve that level of travel. The EPA must return the requested information by March 6.

The letter responds to reports that Pruitt has flown first class for official travel. An EPA spokesman on Feb. 13 said Pruitt had obtained a "blanket waiver" to fly first class on flights because of security concerns, but later walked that assertion back and said an individual request is submitted for each trip.

Gowdy reminded Pruitt of federal regulations that restrict government officials' use of first-class travel and that a waiver must be obtained for each instance. "Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs," Gowdy said.

The letter makes Gowdy the first Republican to officially take steps to review Pruitt's travels. House Democrats on Feb. 14 called for the EPA's inspector general to expand an existing investigation into Pruitt's travel to include the blanket waiver.

Gowdy, who assumed chairmanship of the oversight committee in June 2017, announced in late January that he would be leaving politics to rejoin the private sector.