WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry is defending his decision to take a chartered jet to Ohio last month, saying non-commercial travel is sometimes necessary to do his job.
“I travel a lot to do my job,” Perry told members of the House energy subcommittee on Thursday. “I do it in a way I think is thoughtful, with the taxpayers in mind.”
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. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned last month after withering criticism from President Trump and others over his use of private planes.
Perry has taken at least six trips on government or private planes at a cost of $56,000, the Energy Department said last week.
Perry flew on a chartered flight from Hazleton, Penn., to Portsmouth, Ohio, on Sept. 28, the day before Price resigned. Perry was visiting a uranium facility in Piketon, Ohio.
No commercial flights serve the airport in Hazleton.
Perry also flew on a private plane to an event in Kansas City and has taken government planes to visit the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state and to national labs in Idaho and New Mexico, according to the Energy Department.
New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the energy subcommittee’s top Democrat, said he has asked the department’s inspector general to investigate Perry’s use of non-commercial flights.
Perry, the former Texas governor, said he takes commercial flights when possible and is a frequent flier on both Southwest and United airlines. But in some cases, he said, the job takes him to hard-to-get-to places.
Perry said he would continue to do his job “in the most thoughtful and most reasonable way” possible. But “from time to time, if I’m going to be in those places and be there in a timely fashion, we may have to do it in a way that expends taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.