Richard PerryPerry seeking to prop up nuclear, coal plants Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog probes Zinke's charter jet use Energy Department backs.7B in loans for Georgia nuclear plant MORE on Thursday defended his use of non-commercial planes on the taxpayers' dime as a necessary expense to do his job.
Perry's charter flights have cost taxpayers more than $56,000, according to records the Energy Department released to Reuters on Friday.
U.S. Representative Frank Pallone said Perry's trips on chartered planes need scrutiny in light of the "extreme" budget cuts the department faces in a 2018 federal budget proposed by President Donald Trump. He's also taken three government planes that DOE had to pay to use, all to DOE sites.
Perry said in his opening statement in the hearing, being held by the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, that as a former Texas governor he understood the issue of travel oversight and the need to spend money on travel appropriately and thoughtfully.
"The point is, it's really hard for us to have gotten there without taking that private aircraft to Hazleton", Perry said, referring to the town closest to the mine he toured. "I think we've looked at this closely, we've been thoughtful about how we did it".
After landing in Hazleton on September 28, Perry and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, visited Ebervale to see how Jeddo Coal reclaims rare earth metals from waste coal using a $1 million grant from the Energy Department.
Hazleton has a regional airport with no commercial service, though nearby Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport has frequent scheduled flights.
"I travel a lot to do my job".
"But I hope, at the end of that process, they can look back and say 'you know what, these folks did a good job of expending our dollars and getting the job done, '" he continued.
Officials in the inspector general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.