Environmental Groups Call for Accountability in the EPA
WASHINGTON, DC — Newly released EPA records confirm that former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent a disproportionate amount for his personal security detail to travel with him – nearly 210% more than his predecessor, former Administrator Gina McCarthy.
These records, which were newly obtained by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that the travel expenditures for Mr. Pruitt’s personal security over the seven month period from September 2017 to March 2018 totaled $376,988. EPA had previously disclosed total travel expenditures for Mr. Pruitt’s security detail of $514,810 from February 2017 through August 2017. The newly disclosed expenses bring the total travel costs over the fourteen months to $891,798.
These new records confirm the conclusions of EPA’s Office of Inspector General, which released an audit of Mr. Pruitt’s personal security detail and travel expenses on September 4, 2018. As the Audit notes, these numbers represented a nearly 210% increase in personal security detail travel expenses to cover Mr. Pruitt, compared to expenses over a comparable 11-month timeframe for Ms. McCarthy. The records for 2018 obtained by CCAN and EIP, which have information not included in the Audit, indicate that EPA spent $173,004 on travel by personal security detail to accompany Mr. Pruitt in the first three months of 2018 alone – 74% of the total personal security detail travel costs incurred by Ms. McCarthy over 11 months.
The Audit also concluded that EPA had failed to justify why Mr. Pruitt needed such a large security detail, or why he incurred such substantial travel expenses. In fact, the Audit found EPA had never conducted a threat assessment for Mr. Pruitt, and concluded that EPA appeared to lack coherent policies for personal security staffing decisions or threat assessment at all. “These documents uncovered by CCAN and EIP are further proof of Pruitt’s wasteful and ethically challenged leadership of EPA,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Instead of spending taxpayer money to protect human health and the environment, Trump’s top pick for the agency was more interested in spending lavishly on an unjustified security detail to manage an unidentified threat. One more thing to add to the growing list of fake emergencies in the Trump era.”
It is unclear whether EPA has taken any additional actions on this matter since the September 4 Audit, or whether it intends to pursue the matter further. In its November 2018 Semi-Annual Report to Congress, EPA’s Office of Inspector General noted that several ethics investigations into Mr. Pruitt were unable to be completed and had to be closed as “inconclusive,” due to Mr. Pruitt’s resignation prior to being interviewed by the Office’s investigators. “Although Mr. Pruitt is no longer in office, we strongly believe that he should still be held responsible for his many misdeeds during his short tenure,” said Sylvia Lam, Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Accountability is essential to deterring similar abuses of power in the future.”
Some members of Congress appear to agree. On December 19, 2018, Representative Elijah E. Cummings, now Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, stated that he intended to continue these investigations upon resumption of the next Congress. In the same letter, Chairman Cummings requested that EPA fully comply with the Committee’s previously unanswered requests for documents regarding Mr. Pruitt, including documents related to his personal security detail and travel expenditures.
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-620-8819
Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, email@example.com, 202-997-2466