May 10, 2018 / 10:15 PM / 11 days ago

EPA chief Pruitt's ethics issues have raised concerns: White House

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is pleased with Scott Pruitt’s performance as head of the Environmental Protection Agency but allegations of ethical missteps “have raised some concerns,” a White House spokesman said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gestures as he testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the FY2019 Environmental Protection Agency budget in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The White House is hopeful Pruitt will be able to answer those concerns, spokesman Raj Shah told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Elkhart, Indiana.

Pruitt has been under fire for potential ethics lapses, including flying first class, excessive spending on security, and the rental of a room in a Washington condominium owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist.

“The president is pleased with the job that he’s doing as the administrator. However, the issues that have been raised that I think you guys are all familiar with - they have raised some concerns,” Shah said.

“We’re hopeful and expecting that Administrator Pruitt will be able to answer those,” he said.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The EPA has defended Pruitt’s spending on travel and security, saying it has been crucial to protecting him from public threats and ensuring he can conduct confidential work, and have also pointed out that Pruitt’s lease for the room in Washington, of about $50 a night he was there, was around market rate.

Pruitt has drawn praise from conservatives during his EPA tenure for rolling back Democratic former President Barack Obama’s policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other environmental regulations opposed by industry.

Although Trump has expressed support for Pruitt for his work on scaling back environmental regulations, White House sources have told Reuters officials are worried about the flow of charges against him.

There are nearly a dozen pending investigations into Pruitt with the EPA inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee.

Reporting by James Oliphant; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander

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