EPA's Scott Pruitt Under Fire For Costly Flights

Scott Pruitt administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency of United States, during the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Environment ongioing in Bologna Italy 11 June 2017. The meeting runs until tomorrow 12 June. ANSA GIORGIO BENVENUTI

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will spend almost $25,000 to install a soundproof communications booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt inside his office, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is known for mandating note-free meetings, he's the only administrator to have requested his 24/7 own security detail and now he's about to have his own sound-proof booth. The booth the EPA is having constructed for Pruitt is typically used for hearing tests but is being customized so that Pruitt can take calls without worrying about being monitored.

In all, Pruitt's non-commercial airfare has cost taxpayers more than $58,000, according to reports by CBS and The Washington Post.

On Aug. 4, Pruitt flew on another private jet from Denver to Durango, Colo., and back, because his commercial flight had been delayed by more than five hours, CNN reported, citing an EPA spokesman.

"Their main goal was they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn't be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping", said Steve Snider, an acoustic sales consultant with the company, who worked with the agency on its order earlier this summer. While Bowman told The Washington Post that the booth "is something which a number, if not all, cabinet offices have", a salesman for the company installing the room told The New York Times it was unusual and ended up costing almost four times that of comparable booths. Yet others have noted that the office never had a secure booth previously as the EPA contains a secure facility on a separate floor, and have called attention to the secretive measures taken by Pruitt and his deputies. "Federal agencies need to have one of these so that secured communications, not subject to hacking from the outside, can be held".

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No previous EPA administrators had such a setup. Meanwhile, Mr. Pruitt and the Trump administration are pushing for radical 30 percent cuts to the EPA, which would reduce funding to its lowest level since the 1970s and cripple programs that help safeguard the environment.

In all three cases, the EPA spokesperson said that the agency's ethics office approved of the flights. On Sept. 27, the office of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado disclosed that they had offered Pruitt a flight on a state-funded plane.

Under Pruitt, the EPA is becoming a more secretive place - some employees have been asked to hand over their cellphones before meetings, and Pruitt rarely uses email, instead giving directives to people in person and during meetings, the Post reports.

"This is a first", he said.

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