EPA spent $3.5 million to protect Scott Pruitt, nearly twice the typical security cost

Key Points
  • The EPA spent about $3.5 million to protect Administrator Scott Pruitt during his first four full quarters in office, nearly twice the typical cost for his two predecessors.
  • Pruitt and the EPA are facing about a dozen inquiries into various ethics, spending and management issues.
  • Pruitt and EPA officials have said the higher security costs are justified because the controversial administrator has faced an uncommon number of threats.
urrounded by security agents, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (2nd R) steps out of his armored SUV as he arrives to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Environment Subcommittee outside the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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The Environmental Protection Agency's bill for protecting Administrator Scott Pruitt is nearly twice the typical cost of providing security for his two predecessors.

The EPA spent nearly $3.5 million on security costs for Pruitt during his first full four quarters in office, according to a CNBC analysis of figures released by the agency on Friday. That compares with an average of just under $1.9 million for the comparable periods over the last eight years.

In those previous years, the EPA spent as little as $1.7 million and as much as $2.2 million to protect the previous two administrators, Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson, as well as interim officials.

Pruitt and the EPA are currently facing about a dozen investigations into various ethics, spending and management issues. A central focus of the probes is the cost of Pruitt's travel and his security detail.

The records released Friday showed the EPA spent more than $2.7 million in payroll for Pruitt's security detail during the period. The agency spent an additional $763,263 in travel costs for personnel charged with protecting Pruitt.

Pruitt was sworn into office on Feb. 17, 2017. The analysis period runs from the third quarter of the government's fiscal year, which begins on April 1. The data are broken down by quarter, so it is not possible to discern how much EPA spent to protect Pruitt immediately after he was confirmed.

Pruitt and his staff have consistently sought to justify the higher costs by pointing to a higher-than-average number of threats against the administrator. Pruitt has become a lightning rod for his history of climate change skepticism and his cozy relationship with the energy, agricultural and chemical companies he is responsible for regulating.

Embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt tripped up in Senate testimony over security request
EPA chief Scott Pruitt tripped up in Senate testimony

"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. Americans should all agree that members of the President's cabinet should be kept safe from violent threats," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement Friday.

Pruitt has also stressed that expenses like flying first class were recommended by his security detail.

However, Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland pressed Pruitt about an EPA inspector general report that showed Pruitt had asked for round-the-clock security early in his tenure. Pruitt repeatedly refused to state clearly whether or not he had made the request himself.

A separate Government Accountability Office report found the agency had violated the law by approving $43,000 in expenses to install a soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office without seeking congressional approval.

— CNBC's John Schoen contributed to this story.