Federal taxpayers paid to send two Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials to China recently.
The two employees who made the trip were TDEC’s Deputy of Engineering Services George Garden and Assistant Commissioner Dr. Kendra Abkowitz, said TDEC spokesman Eric Ward.
Ward did not say when, exactly, they went.
The pair went to China for a symposium on “food, water, and energy systems” to benefit Tennessee, Ward said.
“They did so at no expense to TDEC – all meals, airfare and lodging were paid for by the National Science Foundation in the US and China,” Ward told The Tennessee Star in an email.
The National Science Foundation is a federal agency with an annual budget of $7.8 billion, according to its website.
The agency “is the major source of federal backing” for 27 percent of the total federal budget for research at U.S. colleges and universities, the website said.
Ward directed questions about the two TDEC employees’ travel costs to the NSF.
But, in an emailed statement, NSF spokeswoman Sarah Bates referred those questions back to TDEC.
Bates did, however, provide a link showing this trip was one part of a $300,0000 grant to the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture.
“Conversations between leading international scientific and engineering researchers on how food, energy and water interact is critical for the U.S. economy, security and leadership,” Bates said in an emailed statement.
Bates later told The Star about how these efforts will create new technologies that convert wastes into fertilizers that reduce energy costs.
This is not the first time a TDEC official has taken a trip out of Nashville on the taxpayer’s dime.
As FOX News 17 out of Nashville reported four years ago, then TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau traveled aboard a six-seater C-90 King Air from Nashville to Athens, TN for a brief speech. By car, that is less than a three-hour drive. But the flight cost taxpayers $1,517.
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