EPA spent $30,000-plus on security detail for Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Italy trip

New documents show the Environmental Protection Agency spent more than $30,000 on security detail for Administrator Scott Pruitt’s overseas trip to Italy last year.

Much of the information about Pruitt’s personal security detail has been kept under wraps by the agency, citing security concerns, even as Pruitt faces scrutiny over several pricey first-class tickets for travel.

But these few details were obtained through a lawsuit filed by Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group that has been critical of the administration, which shared the heavily redacted documents EPA handed over to them as part of their litigation.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox responded by saying that the security detail “followed the same procedures” that were used for previous administrations over the past 14 years.

The newly obtained documents showing Pruitt’s June trip to visit the Vatican and to meet energy ministers at a summit cost taxpayers now has the publicly known costs of the trip to just over $120,000.

The breakdown:

$36,068 for a military jet from Cincinnati to New York City’s JFK airport for the departure to Rome. $53,633 for air/lodging/meals/ground transport for Pruitt and EPA non-security staff in Italy. $30,558 — the total travel cost for security staff for Italy trip.

The EPA document does not say whether any of the security guards traveled first class.

“We don’t buy that taxpayers don’t have the right to know what the government is up to because of these security claims, that letting us know how much it costs is going to somehow jeopardize security,” said Tom Pelton, a spokesman for Environmental Integrity Project. “His requests for things like a giant security detail show that he’s obsessed a little bit with secrecy and security and it’s different from past EPA administrators who also faced people who were skeptical or critical of their actions, but who didn’t have this much security expenditures. He’s very unusual for having this much secrecy and security and the amount he’s spending on it.”

Pruitt told CBS News in February that “there’s a change coming” in the way he travels, “including flying coach” and in the way his staff will accommodate security threats.

In October, CNN reported Pruitt’s security detail was expanding by hiring a dozen more agents as the number of threats against the agency leader increase, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Pruitt’s around-the-clock security detail is unprecedented, as no past EPA administrator has ever had that level of security.

When CNN compiled figures from public documents in October, salaries alone for the full team were estimated to cost at least $2 million per year. The estimate did not include costs such as training, equipment and travel.

The spending increase comes as the Trump administration has laid out plans to cut the agency’s budget.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to more accurately describe the Environmental Integrity Project.