Watchdog group seeks probe into EPA chief Pruitt's travel

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint asking for an investigation into Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's frequent flights to his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayer expense.

The group American Oversight sent a letter Thursday to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel asking for an investigation into whether Pruitt violated federal rules by using government resources to travel to Oklahoma for "personal or political reasons."

"The Trump administration is seeking to cut EPA's budget by 31%, putting Americans' health and safety at risk," American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers, who was a lawyer for the State Department under President Barack Obama, said in a written statement. "At the same time, Pruitt is spending scarce taxpayer dollars to fuel his personal ambition for higher office."

Pruitt's expense reports from March, April and May were released following a Freedom of Information request filed by Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit watchdog group. The records show Pruitt traveled home at least 10 times, typically leaving Washington on Fridays and returning on Mondays. Pruitt was either in Oklahoma or on trips that included stops there for nearly half of the days encompassed in the three-month period, costing more than $15,000.

Pruitt was in Oklahoma again on Thursday visiting with the editorial board of The Oklahoman newspaper and with a group of ranchers in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Oklahoma City television station KOKH reported that Pruitt said the criticism of his travel was an unfair attack by his opponents.

"The folks talking about this, one, their facts are wrong and that's not a surprise, but it's an alt-EPA," Pruitt said.

A Pruitt spokeswoman told the TV station the environmental watchdog group inaccurately calculated his travel days on Friday and Monday as days missed from work.

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