Senators redouble efforts to get answers from Icahn

Source: Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 8, 2017

Doubling down on their efforts, a group of Democratic senators yesterday sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asking that he explain billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s role as special regulatory adviser to President Trump.

The senators questioned Icahn’s input in shaping policy and regulations at the agency, especially with regard to the renewable fuel standard.

“The Administration has never formally described the role Mr. Icahn plays, the extent of his portfolio, or whether he has recused himself from decisions (or divested himself from financial holdings) that would present conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof,” they wrote in the letter.

Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois joined in sending the letter.

The lawmakers suggest that Icahn stands to personally profit from his position and his potential influence on certain regulatory matters.

Despite being named special adviser to the president, Icahn has retained his businesses, including as majority owner of CVR Energy Inc., a refining company involved in the renewable fuel credit market, they wrote.

Icahn has an 82 percent ownership stake in CVR Energy, an oil refiner worth $1.6 billion, the lawmakers said. CVR is an oil refiner that is required to either blend its oil with renewable fuels or buy credits in order to meet its obligations.

“Mr. Icahn has called RFS obligations ‘completely totally absurd’ and according to the Wall Street Journal claimed they will cost his company $200 million dollars this year,” they wrote.

“His interest in CVR coupled with his ‘special advisor’ role presents two related but distinct opportunities for Mr. Icahn to profit from his position.”

The senators wrote that reports suggest Icahn has directly participated in negations over proposals to change the RFS. Early this year, Icahn and the Renewable Fuels Association reportedly met with White House officials to present a draft of a plan to shift the RFS point of obligation in Icahn’s favor (Greenwire, March 1).

The senators demanded answers no later than June 16.

The letter comes after the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee yesterday released a compilation of over 100 information requests to the Trump administration that have gone unanswered (see related story).

The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a recent opinion that executive branch agencies are only obligated to respond to queries from congressional committee chairmen and are not legally required to respond to all congressional requests for information.

Democrats senators have been seeking answers on Icahn’s role for months. They have sent letters to the White House, EPA and Icahn himself.

Watchdog group Public Citizen has filed a complaint with Congress calling for an investigation into Icahn’s role pushing for the RFS change and whether it violates lobbying laws.

Icahn has called the complaint and adjacent letters “fake news” and said he is not in violation of any conflict-of-interest or lobbying rules.