Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt says he needs to fly first-class because of a toxic environment—the political one. He says he wasn't involved in the decision to put him in first class when he travels, which he says was made after some unpleasant interactions with travelers opposed to administration policies. "We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment," he tells the New Hampshire Union Leader. He says his security team and the administration "place me on the plane where they think [it's] best from a safety perspective." He was speaking days after the Washington Post reported that Pruitt, whose predecessors mostly flew coach, has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in first-class and military jet travel costs, including $90,000 during a busy stretch in early June.
Pruitt's government-funded travel is being reviewed by the EPA's internal watchdog, which says the results of its investigation should be released by the summer, the AP reports. Earlier this week, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox claimed Pruitt had a "blanket waiver" allowing him to choose first class whenever he travels, but he retracted the statement after Politico pointed out that federal rules require a waiver for every taxpayer-funded first-class trip when it's for security reasons. Wilcox, whose earlier statement was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, now says Pruitt "submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class" for every trip he makes. (Pruitt is the first EPA chief to be accompanied by a 24-hour security detail.)