Perry defends non-commercial flights as necessary

A wind farm near Lake Benton Minn

A wind farm near Lake Benton Minn

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said he flew in a charter plane when visiting Hazleton because the city's airport doesn't have commercial flights, nor does the airport in OH to which he flew after leaving Hazleton.

Perry and other members of the Trump administration have recently come under fire for traveling aboard government or non-commercial planes while on official business.

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.

At a Thursday hearing in front of a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel, Perry said his job often requires flying to places where commercial air service would be too inconvenient.

"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.

No commercial flights serve the airport in Hazleton.

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. "I'm going to make the commitment to you that I'm going to try to do it in the most thoughtful and the most reasonable way to do that, but realizing that, from time to time, if I'm going to be in those places, and we're going to be there in a timely fashion, we may have to do it in a way that does expend some taxpayers' dollars", he said.

Perry jokingly says that while he "could even hitchhike", it is sometimes most efficient for him to use private aircraft.

Perry, the former Texas governor, said he takes commercial flights when possible and is a frequent flier on both Southwest and United airlines. He has requested that the DOE's Inspector General investigate the issue.

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