EPA Reimbursed Employee Who Took Cross-Country Road Trip to Attend Conference

Taxpayers billed $2,199 for 3,926-mile round trip

/ AP

An Environmental Protection Agency employee was reimbursed after driving his car the equivalent of a cross-country road trip to attend a conference.

Taxpayers were billed over $2,000 for the trip, which covered nearly 4,000 miles, in what the inspector general for the agency called an "inappropriate" expense.

"[T]he EPA did not provide reasonable justification as to why one traveler was reimbursed $2,199 for traveling by privately owned vehicle for a 3,926-mile round trip when airfare would cost less," according to a newly released audit report. "The EPA concurred that it had an opportunity to save on travel costs and estimated that this traveler would have had about $750 in costs for airfare, local travel to and from both airports and airport parking."

"While we agree that some travel expenses would have been incurred and paid, there is no way of knowing how much would have been incurred if this traveler’s privately owned vehicle travel was handled differently," the inspector general said.

The conference was the EPA’s Peer Review Division panel meeting for Greater Research Opportunities for Undergraduate Fellowships in 2014.

The EPA did not return a request for more information about the meeting’s location, or why the employee decided to drive a distance greater than that of the entire United States to attend.

The carbon footprint of the individual’s road trip amounts to 2,669.6 pounds of CO2, or the equivalent of killing three trees, according to American Forests’ carbon calculator.