EPA Chief Says Threats to Family Prompt Boost in His Security

(Bloomberg) -- The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency said an increase in his security detail is the result of an escalation in threats to him and his family.

While environmental groups have pilloried the potential $1.9 million annual cost of round-the-clock security that comes as the agency moves to cut staff, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said security officials deemed it necessary given the "unprecedented" threats.

EPA Chief Says Threats to Family Prompt Boost in His Security

"The quantity and the volume -- as well as the type -- of threats are different," Pruitt said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "What’s really disappointing to me as it’s not just me -- it’s family."

Pruitt’s comments are his first addressing a spate of recent news stories that say the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of hiring and training a dozen new security agents to provide him around-the-clock protection. The agency already signed a $24,570 contract to install a "privacy booth" for Pruitt that could facilitate secure communications.

"The level of protection is dictated by the level of threat," Pruitt said, noting security arrangements are decided by others assessing the situation.

A senior government security official said Pruitt has received death threats on Twitter, in letters and in packages delivered to his home. The level of security for EPA leaders was inadequate even before Pruitt came on board, the official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said. The planned levels of protection permit just one person on any given shift to be absent because of sickness, leave or training, the official said. 

The moves come against the backdrop of a Trump administration proposal to slash EPA funding and cull roughly a third of the agency’s 15,000-strong workforce. Pruitt is the face of that effort as the head of the EPA and as a former Oklahoma attorney general who built his career challenging what he termed he termed the agency’s "activist agenda."

CNN reported this week that security of Pruitt was beefed up to an unprecedented level. Previous EPA administrators haven’t had similar levels of security, it reported.

"I seek to engage in these decisions with civility and thoughtful discussion and meaningful discussion, and it is unfortunate, I think, at times perhaps it devolves into something that is much different," Pruitt said. "Serious things take place that dictate a response."

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