Energy secretary took charter flight day before Price resigned

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a chartered jet to Ohio last week, according to an airport management company, the day before fellow Cabinet member Tom Price resigned over his use of private charter flights for government business.

FILE PHOTO - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks to reporters during a briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Perry took the private plane from Hazleton Regional Airport in Pennsylvania to the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport in southern Ohio on Sept. 28, PMH Aviation, the company that runs the Portsmouth airport, said on Wednesday. The purpose of his trip was to visit a uranium facility in Piketon, Ohio, according to the Energy Department.

A receptionist at the company declined to answer questions about the cost of the flight.

The only private jet to land at Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport last Thursday belonged to Dixie Capital Corp, a Richmond, Virginia-based charter company, according to data from the Flightaware website. Dixie confirmed it owned the plane, but declined to comment on Perry or say how much the trip cost.

A spokeswoman for Perry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perry was joined in Ohio by U.S. Senator Rob Portman and two U.S. representatives from the state to visit the decommissioned uranium enrichment facility in Piketon, according to a statement last week by the senator’s office. Local officials have been lobbying the government to reopen the facility.

During his stop in Pennsylvania, Perry toured a coal mine.

No commercial airlines serve Hazleton, but airports with commercial routes in Scranton and Allentown, Pennsylvania, are each an hour away.

Price resigned last week as U.S. health and human services secretary and promised to repay the government for some $52,000 worth of travel including private flights, after Politico and other media reported on his use of charters.

On Monday, the watchdog agency overseeing the U.S. Interior Department said it had opened an investigation into the use of charter flights by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who took a recent private flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Montana, that cost $12,000.

Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Peter Cooney