EPA chief coming under extensive criticism for his absence

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Critics of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Scott Pruitt are complaining that he is making visits to his home state of Oklahoma too frequently.

According to a “gotcha” report in Reuters, Obama-era officials are voicing concerns that Pruitt “is cultivating political relationships in the state at taxpayer expense, instead of focusing on his job as head of the environmental regulator.”

Copies of Pruitt’s travel records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project watchdog group show that he was home visiting his family in Tulsa for at least 43 of the 92 days in March, April, and May. However, those visits were made in coordination with a busy schedule throughout the U.S. heartland where he held meetings, made speeches and attended events, before stopping home for extended weekends.

“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 [has] spearheaded over two dozen significant regulatory actions since being sworn in.”

Pruitt has riled environmentalists by raising doubts about politically-fueled man-made climate change threats and decimating business-stifling Obama-era regulations. Prior to his EPA appointment by President Trump, Pruitt was Oklahoma’s attorney general. During his tenure, he brought many lawsuits against the agency he now runs.

Records show that Pruitt paid for some legs of the trips directly related to his visits home, although it was not clear if he paid for all such legs, according to Reuters’ assessment of the documents.

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

“The American people aren’t paying taxes for part-time cabinet officials,” complained Liz Purchia Gannon, who was the spokeswoman for former EPA head Gina McCarthy, who served under former Democratic President Barack Obama during his second term.

McCarthy’s family lived in Boston while she was head of the EPA, and she “fit travel home into her personal time,” she recalled.

The family of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson moved to Washington during her tenure; therefore, she did not have to travel to see them.

Pruitt made headlines earlier this month when he discussed the possibility of having a televised debate.

According to Reuters, Pruitt’s proposal to debate climate change is part of a program he is organizing to combat the pervasive idea that climate change is “settled science,” and that human activity that produces greenhouse gases is the major cause of global warming.

“There are lots of questions that have not been asked and answered,” Pruitt said regarding climate science. “Who better to do that than a group of scientists … getting together and having a robust discussion for all the world to see.”

When asked if the debate should be broadcast on television, Pruitt replied, “I think so. I think so. I mean, I don’t know yet, but you want this to be open to the world. You want this to be on full display. I think the American people would be very interested in consuming that. I think they deserve it.”

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