The Trump administration has proposed whacking the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly a third, eliminating thousands of employees and scrapping dozens of programs, including climate-change research and cleanup efforts in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.
But a detailed budget plan obtained by The Washington Post last week includes a request to add positions within the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance “to provide 24/7 security detail” for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, had what was known as “door-to-door” protection — essentially from her residence each morning until she returned at night, according to Liz Purchia, a communications director at the EPA in the Obama administration. She said security officers typically would leave McCarthy once she was at her office. Previous EPA administrators have had similar arrangements.
On a handful of international trips, McCarthy did receive 24/7 protection, depending on the threat level of a country, as determined by the State Department, Purchia said. But that was the exception rather than the rule. And if McCarthy was in Washington over the weekend, her security detail would not be with her unless she had an official event.
So why the need for additional resources to protect Pruitt around the clock?
That remains unclear. The EPA did not immediately offer comment Wednesday about the reasoning behind the request. It also remains unclear whether Pruitt himself sought the full-time security detail.
Myron Ebell, who led the EPA transition for the Trump administration but has since returned to his role at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told E&E News this year that it would make sense for Pruitt to receive increased protection.
“I think it’s prudent given the continuing activities by the left to foment hatred and the reported hostility within the agency from some unprofessional activists,” Ebell said at the time.
Pruitt undoubtedly has been a polarizing pick to lead the EPA, given his legal attacks on the agency during the Obama years. His confirmation has triggered public protest from activists and environmental groups, but broad praise from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from the fossil-fuel industry, which has long fought what it called burdensome and costly regulations under Obama. Pruitt’s arrival also has stirred unease among many agency employees, who fear that he is presiding over a major dismantling of the EPA.
Still, agency officials have so far not explained what security threats, if any, prompted the request for additional security.
Pruitt is hardly the only cabinet-level official to have some sort of security detail. Secretaries of the Treasury, State Department, Defense Department and others have long received protection, for example. But the Trump era has ushered in unprecedented security requests beyond just the EPA.
Federal marshals are protecting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a cost to her agency of nearly $8 million over nearly eight months, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Education Department recently agreed to reimburse federal marshals $7.78 million for their services protecting DeVos from mid-February to the end of September — an average of about $1 million per month — a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service recently told The Post. Marshals will continue providing security for DeVos for the next four years, or until either agency decides to terminate the arrangement, under an agreement signed recently.