(Reuters) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt requested and received around-the-clock security from his first day in office in 2017, the agency’s watchdog on Monday told a lawmaker questioning Pruitt’s expensive security detail.
Prior EPA administrators have not had blanket protection. Pruitt, under pressure from Congress for his high travel and security spending in his position at America’s top environmental regulator, has said his 24-hour security was installed due to unusual threats against him.
In a May 14 letter, EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said the decision was made by the agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training after being informed that Pruitt had requested that such protection begin once he was confirmed as administrator.
The inspector general’s office “played no role in this decision,” Elkins added.
The letter was addressed to Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who had asked the office how and why Pruitt was getting 24-hour protection.
“EPA’s Protective Service Detail handles security decisions and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA,” agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email.
During hearings last month, Pruitt, who was confirmed Feb. 17, 2017, justified his security spending by citing threats he had received since taking office.
Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Richard Chang