EPA spends 30 pct more on Pruitt's security, cites death threats

May 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's security detail has cost taxpayers about $3.4 million so far, up more than 30 percent from his predecessor during an equivalent period, according to details released by the agency, which said Pruitt's life had been threatened.

Pruitt, who environmental groups have accused of lax enforcement and cozy ties with industry, requested 24-hour protection beginning on his first day in office. It was an unusual measure for the nation's top environmental regulator, and Pruitt and the agency have said it was justified by a high number of threats to his life.

"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 pro-actively release these numbers on a quarterly basis," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an emailed statement. "Americans should all agree that members of the President’s cabinet should be kept safe from violent threats,” he added.

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Questionable spending by past and present members of Trump's team
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Questionable spending by past and present members of Trump's team

Scott Pruitt

  • $163,000 in flights

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly spent $163,000 in taxpayer money on first-class, military and charter flights during his first year in office. 

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Scott Pruitt

  • $50/night condo

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly lived in a Washington, D.C. condo that is co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist. The $50-a-night deal is much cheaper than the market-rate rents in the area.

 (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ben Carson

  • $31,000 dining set

Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson bought a $31,000 dining set for his office. His office later canceled the order following backlash. 

(REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

Tom Price

  • $52,000 private charter flights

Tom Price resigned as health and human services secretary in September 2017 following outrage over his travel on private charter planes. He promised to repay the money saying, "the taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes."

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Ryan Zinke

  • Travel budget

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was reportedly on track to be $200,000 over his travel budget.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Ryan Zinke

  • $6,250 on helicopter ride

Zinke also reportedly spent thousand of dollars in taxpayer money on a government helicopter ride so he could go horseback riding with Vice President Mike Pence. 

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Ryan Zinke

  • $139,000 office doors

The U.S. Department of Interior spent $139,000 to fix three sets of doors in Secretary Ryan Zinke's office, according to Reuters. The steep price tag was blamed on rules for historic preservation and procurement.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

David Shulkin

  • Canal cruise with wife

The former Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and his wife, Merle Bari, allegedly watched tennis matches at Wimbledon and enjoyed a river cruise during a work trip to London and Copenhagen.

(Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Steven Mnuchin

  • $1 million on military aircraft

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly spent mass amounts of taxpayer money on several trips including a flight to Kentucky where he viewed the solar eclipse. He also requested a military plane for his honeymoon with wife Louise Linton, according to Vanity Fair.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Security for the EPA administrator cost taxpayers $3.43 million between the first quarter of 2017 through the second quarter of 2018, according to the figures, released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

That compares with $2.48 million spent on his predecessor Gina McCarthy during the first six quarters of her tenure, which began in the middle of 2013, according to the figures.

It represents an uptick of just over 30 percent in inflation-adjusted terms.

Pruitt's spending on security, first-class air travel and office renovations, have been subject to intense scrutiny from lawmakers. Many Democrats and a handful of Republicans have called for his resignation over the issue.

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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
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Former 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)

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EPA's Office of Inspector General has said Pruitt, who has been actively pursuing President Donald Trump's agenda to roll back environmental regulation and boost industry, has received many times more threats than previous EPA chiefs, a lot of them in the form of email and social media posts.

Trump has expressed support for Pruitt, saying he is doing a "fantastic" job at EPA. Some other top administration officials have resigned or been fired over spending scandals.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Gregorio)

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