EPA chief Scott Pruitt spent almost half of spring in home state of Oklahoma

July 24 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was in his home state of Oklahoma on at least 43 of the 92 days of March, April and May, according to copies of his travel records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project watchdog group and reviewed by Reuters.

Pruitt's frequent visits to Oklahoma have raised concerns among critics that he is cultivating political relationships in the state at taxpayer expense, instead of focusing on his job as head of the environmental regulator. EPA officials contend that Pruitt works hard and pays for his trips home to Tulsa to see his wife and children.

"Administrator Pruitt works long hours and is available around the clock," said EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman. "He is extremely focused and disciplined, which is evident by the fact that he spearheaded over two dozen significant regulatory actions since being sworn in."

RELATED: A look at Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

11 PHOTOS
Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
See Gallery
Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Pruitt has riled environmentalists by routinely raising doubts about the realities of climate change and by vowing to sweep away scores of Obama-era regulations rules to help business. Before becoming head of the EPA under Republican President Donald Trump, he was Oklahoma's attorney general and repeatedly sued the agency he now runs to block federal environmental rules.

The travel records show Pruitt's schedule this spring often took him to cities in the U.S. heartland where he held meetings – often with oil and gas industry representatives - made speeches and attended events, before flying to Tulsa for extended weekends.

The records showed Pruitt paid for some legs of the trips directly related to his visits home, although it was not clear he paid for all such legs. (Click here for images of Pruitt's travel schedule and travel vouchers: http://live.reuters.com/Event/Live_US_Politics/1028796938 and http://live.reuters.com/Event/Live_US_Politics/1028776777 )

The airfare for Pruitt's travel to and from Oklahoma totaled more than $12,000, the Environmental Integrity Project said. That did not include travel and lodging expenses for his staff or his security detail, the records for which were not immediately available.

The practice of spending long weekends away from Washington was seen as unusual by former officials.

"The American people aren't paying taxes for part-time Cabinet officials," said Liz Purchia Gannon, who was spokeswoman for former EPA head Gina McCarthy, who served under former Democratic President Barack Obama during his second term.

RELATED: Net worths of Trump's Cabinet members

15 PHOTOS
Net worths of Trump's Cabinet members
See Gallery
Net worths of Trump's Cabinet members

Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior: $800,000

Before serving in Congress, Zinke, who has an MBA, started Continental Divide International in 2005, a property management and business development consulting company. He later formed a consulting company, On Point Montana, in 2009.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Mike Pence, Vice President: $800,000

Pence became an attorney in a private practice after graduating from law school before serving in Congress and then becoming the Governor of Indiana.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy: $2 million 

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry banks at least $100,000 from speeches and $250,000 from consulting Caterpillar. Additionally, the politician has about 20% of his portfolio invested in in oil-and gas partnerships and energy stocks, according to Forbes.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security: $4 million 

Kelly, who spent over four decades in the military, amassed the majority of his wealth from government pension. 

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

James Mattis, Secretary of Defense: $5 million

Like Kelly, the four-star general made most of his money from government pension. He also sits as a director of General Dynamics. 

REUTERS/Ed Jones/Pool

Jeff Sessions: $6 million (Attorney General)

Sessions owns more than 1,500 acres in Alabma that are worth at least $2.5 million. The rest of his fortune is in Vanguard mutual funds and municipal bonds, according to Forbes.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services: $10 million

Price ran an orthopedic clinic in Atlanta for 20 years, then taught orthopedic surgery as an assistant porfessor at his alma mater, Emory.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation: $24 million

The daughter of a shipping magnate owes the buld of her and her husband Mitch McConnell’s wealth to her family. 

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: $29 million 

The neurosurgeon earned millions from books he penned, media roles and speaking gigs. He also served as a director at Kellogg and Costco, accumulating more than $6 million in stocks. 

REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus/File Photo

Andy Puzder, Secretary of Labor: $45 million 

The CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has earned at least $25 million in salary and bonuses since 2000.

(Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury: $300 million 

The former Goldman Sachs partner purchased subprime mortgage lender IndyMac for $1.6 billion in 2009 with a group of billionaire investors and sold it for $3.4 billion six years later.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: $325 million

The former ExxonMobil chairman and CEO accumulated more than 2.6 million shares of company stock in his tenure and hefty pay packages, according to Forbes.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education: $1.25 billion

The daughter of a shipping magnate owes the bulk of her and her husband Mitch McConnell’s wealth to her family.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce: $2.5 billion 

Known as the "King of Bankruptcy," the former banker bought bankrupt companies and later selling them for a large profit.

 REUTERS/Carlos Barria
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

McCarthy's family lived in Boston while she was head of the EPA, and she "fit travel home into her personal time," Purchia Gannon said.

A source who worked for former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, McCarthy's predecessor, said Jackson's family moved to Washington during her tenure, so she did not have to travel to see them. Jackson was not available for comment.

(Reporting by Emily Flitter in New York and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Peter Cooney and Bernadette Baum)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.