The Environmental Protection Agency released documents to a House committee this week that show Scott Pruitt took more than $105,000 worth of first class flights during his first nine months as administrator, but the agency did not appear to turn over the waivers that are federally required to allow him to take flights in an upgraded cabin.
House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, specifically requested the federally required waivers after EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told Politico in February that Pruitt was granted a “blanket waiver” to travel in first class for security reasons.
The next day, Wilcox changed his statement, saying a waiver was submitted “for every trip.”
Federal rules say “blanket authorization of other than coach-class transportation accommodations is prohibited and shall be authorized on an individual trip-by-trip basis, unless the traveler has an up-to-date documented disability or special need.”
Gowdy, in his February 20 letter, criticized the EPA, saying “clearly federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver” for security purposes, and requested that the EPA turn over all the individual waivers Pruitt would need to be able to fly in first class.
But it does not appear that those waivers were turned over to the committee when the EPA gave it nine months’ worth of travel records on Tuesday. According to Politico, Pruitt has spent more than $105,000 on first class travel.
In the records it gave to the committee, the EPA included vouchers within the documents that include an “approval” and “authorized” line, but did not provide an explanation for why the travel was approved nor explicitly say that first class travel was approved. It is not clear if those vouchers serve as a waiver for first-class travel under the federal rules.
The EPA acknowledged it handed over documents to the committee but declined to answer CNN’s specific questions about the waivers.
“We have responded to Chairman Gowdy,” Wilcox said Wednesday. “The letter explains, EPA’s Protective Service Detail identified specific ongoing threats associated with Administrator Pruitt’s travel and shifted his class based on certain security protocols that require him to be near the front of the plane.”
EPA also sent a link to a CBS News interview from February where Pruitt said he would fly coach in the future. “There’s a change coming” in the way he travels, Pruitt said, “including flying coach,” and in the way his staff will accommodate security threats.
The letter to Gowdy says the EPA approved the first class travel “on an individualized basis,” but the documents do not provide the waivers that would back up that claim.
In the documents provided to the committee, EPA said sitting in first class was a necessary security precaution so that Pruitt-who the agency says has faced more threats than previous administrators-would be able to leave quickly if necessary.
EPA did not respond to CNN’s question about how the protocol has now changed and if so, what other measures have been taken to allow him to safely sit in coach.