Trump’s E.P.A. Chief Plans 2 Foreign Trips Before Leaving Office

The New York Times
Date: Nov. 19, 2020
By: Lisa Friedman

WASHINGTON — Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, plans to squeeze in two taxpayer-funded trips abroad — to Taiwan next month and to four Latin American countries in January — before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes over and moves to overturn most of his policies.

Both trips have raised concerns about the taxpayer expense at a time when Mr. Wheeler no longer represents the direction of E.P.A. policy, and he and top aides are supposed to be aiding the transition to the Biden administration.

Traveling to Taiwan is expected to require a chartered flight at a cost of more than $250,000 to avoid coronavirus risks and because of the lengthy quarantines required of commercial travelers, according to three people knowledgeable about the trip. The three-day visit, scheduled for the week of Dec. 5, will cost an estimated $45,000 for a delegation of 10 people, according to E.P.A. and American Institute of Taiwan documents as well as people familiar with the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations.

James Hewitt, a spokesman for Mr. Wheeler, said the agency is still working through logistics but said the administrator was invited to Taiwan “to collaborate on issues including the Save our Seas initiative and marine litter, air quality, and children’s health.” Mr. Wheeler has called plastic waste a “top priority” and the E.P.A. recently released a global strategy for addressing marine litter.

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