The round-the-clock security detail for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt cost taxpayers almost $3.5 million during his first year in office, according to figures published Friday by the agency.
The EPA spent more than $2.7 million on agents’ salaries and roughly $760,00 on travel costs as part of that coverage, records released under the Freedom of Information Act show. The amount is nearly double what taxpayers paid annually on average to provide security for Pruitt’s two immediate predecessors, Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson, during their tenures.
Pruitt received 24-7 protection starting on his first day, according to documents released earlier this month by the EPA’s inspector general. Then-senior White House adviser Don Benton first ordered the round-the-clock detail on Feb. 12 out of concern that President Trump’s controversial policies could make Pruitt a target, emails obtained by The Washington Post show, and then Pruitt opted to maintain that level of protection.
As a result, the size of the administrator’s security entourage has tripled, and agents accompany him not only on official travel but also during weekend trips home to Tulsa and vacations to states such as Kentucky and California.
The EPA’s figures indicate the cost of covering previous administrators annually averaged less than $1.9 million over the past eight years.
In an email Friday, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox again pointed to the verbal and written threats Pruitt had received since joining the Cabinet. Both the administrator and his aides have said Pruitt delegated decisions about his level of protection, as well as related decisions such as traveling first class for safety, to the head of his detail, Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta. Perrotta, who came under congressional scrutiny for his role in several key EPA spending decisions, retired recently.
“Administrator Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him, and to provide transparency EPA will post the costs of his security detail and proactively release these numbers on a quarterly basis,” Wilcox said. “Americans should all agree that members of the President’s Cabinet should be kept safe from violent threats.”
But environmentalists such as Lori Ann Burd, director of the environmental health program at the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, questioned whether such spending was justified.
“It’s deplorable that Pruitt has spent millions of taxpayer dollars simply to avoid facing taxpayers’ criticism of his poisonous policies,” Burd said in a statement. “He’s willing to loosen restrictions on pesticides and air pollutants known to harm and kill people and wildlife, but he’s unwilling to answer to the people he is harming. This is a new level of cowardice for the Trump administration.”