Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Tuesday looking for more information about the first class flights he’s been taking when traveling for work. The flights have generated negative press for the agency and have gotten the attention of some in Congress.
“Americans deserve an EPA Administrator more dedicated to first-class protection of human health and the environment than to luxury travel at taxpayer expense,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter. “It remains unclear how any possible security threats warranted the frequent issuance of waivers authorizing you to fly first-class on domestic flights, or how sitting in a first-class seat is safer than sitting in economy class.”
They also quoted former airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III as evidence in making their case that first-class is not safer than coach. Sullenberger is the pilot who famously landed a plane on the Hudson River, saving all lives of the passengers on board.
The letter was written by Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Diana DaGette (D-CO), and Paul Tonko (D-NY).
Pruitt, however, has faced many more security threats than past agency Administrators. The Washington Examiner noted that four times more security threats have been lodged against him when compared to past agency heads, and the EPA has opened around 70 cases looking into threats made in the past year. Pruitt said the the threats have been extended to his family as well.
According to the Washington Post, the head of Pruitt’s security detail made the recommendation that he fly first-class to provide “a buffer” between him and the rest of the flying public.
So the crux of the issue raised by the letter then is whether flying first-class offers any security benefits, and to the extent that it does, is it worth the extra cost? The lawmakers who sent the letter today are clearly very skeptical that it offers any benefit.
The letter requested documents from Pruitt and asked various questions, including:
- A list of all instances to date where Pruitt traveled by air domestically in first or business-class, including the total expense of these tickets
- Whether or not the EPA has conducted any analysis to indicate enhanced security is achieved by premium travel
- How interactions with the American public at airports necessitate purchasing first-class plane tickets
- Whether or not any of Pruitt’s first-class or business-class travel authorized or otherwise approved by the White House
A copy of the letter is included below.