An environmental watchdog group is calling for an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to reassign 10 of the agency's criminal investigators to serve as bodyguards for Administrator Scott Pruitt.
"The transfer would more than double the size of the previous administrator's security detail," the Environmental Integrity Project said in a letter to the EPA's Office of the Inspector General requesting the investigation. "Meanwhile, EPA's budget proposal for 2018 would eliminate 50 staff from the agency's criminal enforcement program while cutting travel and other 'non-salary' expenses from $6 million to $4.2 million a year."
The group wants the inspector general to examine if the expansion of the guard detail fits its definition of "waste" of taxpayer funds, according to the letter.
The EPA inspector general's office said "at this point, ... [it] has not announced any work on that topic." EPA headquarters had no comment on the letter at press time.
The group requested the probe based on an EPA budget document posted online last month by the Washington Post that details how Pruitt would reassign 10 investigators from the agency's enforcement office, which is in charge of fining companies for violating environmental regulations.
The investigators would be moved "to provide 24/7 security detail for the administrator," the group said, citing the document.
The group asked why Pruitt needs more guards, while previous EPA chiefs, such as former President Barack Obama's Gina McCarthy, required "door to door" agents who escorted her from home to work and on official trips.
At the same time, the EPA would shrink the number of environmental cops on the beat, the group said, pointing out that the enforcement office has fewer than 200 investigators, who are being targeted for cuts under President Trump's budget blueprint.
"President Trump's proposal to cut EPA by nearly a third is bad enough," said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project and a former head of the EPA enforcement office. "What can possibly justify removing 10 more criminal investigators from the front lines just to build up the administrator's personal security detail?" he asked.