EPA chief Scott Pruitt says he'll fly coach following scrutiny over first-class flights

Key Points
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told CBS News he will start flying coach immediately.
  • The Trump appointee has come under scrutiny after a series of reports showing he frequently flies first or business class.
  • The EPA said Pruitt's security team recommend he fly business class following a series of unspecified incidents and numerous threats against him.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt says he will start flying coach after a series of news reports drew attention to his high-cost travel habits.

In response to those reports, the EPA said Pruitt had flown first or business class on the recommendation of his security detail. That advice followed several unspecified incidents during previous trips and an unusual number of threats leveled at the Trump appointee.

"These threats have been unprecedented from the very beginning, and the quantity and type are unprecedented," Pruitt said in an interview with CBS News.

"I have a responsibility to listen to those individuals that are charged with the obligation to keep me safe and to keep the employees at the agency safe, and I listen to them."

But Pruitt told CBS News he has instructed his security team to explore other options.

"What I've told them going forward is this: There's a change occurring. You're going to accommodate the security threats as they exist. You're going to accommodate those in all ways — alternate ways — up to and including flying coach, and that's going to happen on my very next flight," he said.

The EPA's inspector general was already investigating the price tag of Pruitt's trips and security detail when a watchdog group reported last month that the administrator and aides had run up a $90,000 travel bill in early January.

After the report, Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy sent a request for information about the travel arrangements to the EPA.

Pruitt, who is charged with protecting the nation's air and environment, has become a lightning rod for his record of climate change skepticism, his aggressive rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations and his close relationship with the companies the EPA regulates.