Add EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to the growing list of Trump administration officials who have used private planes for government duties.
The EPA confirmed to CNN Wednesday that Pruitt used a private plane and military jet to travel for government duties instead of flying commercial for trips over the summer.
Pruitt flew from Cincinnati to New York’s JFK airport on an Air Force jet on June 7. He then continued to Italy for an international summit on a commercial flight, an EPA spokesman told CNN.
When asked for justification for flying on a military jet instead of a likely cheaper commercial flight, an EPA spokesman told CNN in a statement: “Due to logistical obstacles and the need to schedule meetings with the Vatican before the G7 Summit, we needed to take this flight.”
The spokesman added that the flight was cleared by the EPA’s ethics counsel.
Pruitt took a private jet on August 4 from Denver to Durango, Colorado, and back on the same day, EPA also confirmed, after the agency says his commercial flight was delayed.
EPA general counsel documents obtained from an EPA official confirmed the June 7 and August 4 flights as well as a July 27 flight Pruitt took on a Department of Interior jet from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Guymon, Oklahoma. The document showed Pruitt took the same aircraft from Guymon to Oklahoma City.
Acknowledging the contents of the documents, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said, “Administrator Pruitt took one charter flight and three government flights.”
The EPA spokesman justified the use of the charter plane by saying that it “would have been impossible” for Pruitt to make it to his destination on time otherwise, due to a more than five-hour delay on the originally scheduled commercial flight.
“It would have been impossible to make it to the important Gold King Mine visit with a bipartisan group of elected officials waiting for the administrator,” the spokesman said. “Due to the short amount of time we had to make a decision and while the governor’s office was working on logistics, we were able to find a charter plane which was cleared by the EPA’s ethics counsel.”
The EPA general counsel justified the June 7 trip as necessary and part of a tight schedule, and backed the July 27 flight because commercial aircraft were unable to fly into Guymon. The office approved the August 4 trip because a commercial flight was canceled and Pruitt had to make it to the Gold King mine at a certain time.
CBS first reported the flights.
When asked how many times Pruitt has flown private or government planes, an EPA spokesman said there was one round trip on a private jet and two trips on a government plane.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have also come under fire for using or requesting to use private and government planes for official government business.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently disclosed that she too uses private planes when conducing government business, but pays for them herself.
When asked Wednesday whether he was considering firing Price for using private planes, President Donald Trump responded, “we’ll see” adding that he is unhappy with his HHS secretary.