(WASHINGTON) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has broken months of silence about his frequent premium-class flights at taxpayer expense, saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travelers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spoke about his flight costs on Tuesday in a pair of interviews in New Hampshire, following a first-class flight to meet with the state’s Republican governor and tour a toxic waste site.
Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader he had some “incidents” on flights shortly after his appointment by President Donald Trump last year.
“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” said Pruitt, who confirmed to the newspaper that he had flown first class from Washington to Boston before continuing on to New Hampshire. “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”
Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail that accompanies him at all times, even at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof “privacy booth” to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices.
Pruitt said he was not involved in the decision for him to fly first class.
“There have been instances, unfortunately, during my time as administrator, as I’ve flown and spent time, of interaction that’s not been the best,” Pruitt told WMUR TV in Manchester, New Hampshire. “And, so, ingress and egress off the plane … that’s all decisions all made by our (security) detail team, by the chief of staff,…