Representatives press Pruitt on Icahn’s role in shaping the RFS

By Erin Voegele | June 23, 2017

On June 21, democratic leaders in the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to detail policies and procedures the agency has put in place to prevent Carl Icahn from influencing the EPA’s position on the Renewable Fuel Standard for personal financial gain.

Icahn is the majority owner of CVR Energy, which is a petroleum refining company involved in the renewable identification number (RIN) market. In late December, he was also named as a special advisor to President Donald Trump on issues related to regulatory reform.

The letter details several statements made by Icahn criticizing the RFS and questions financial gains made by Icahn and his companies following reports of policy recommendations he has made regarding the RFS.  According to the letter, CVR saw shares rise 10 percent the day after Icahn was named as a special advisor to the president.

“Recent reports about Mr. Icahn’s actions with respect to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program have raised significant ethical and legal concerns given his oil refinery business interests,” the members wrote. “The Committee has a longstanding interest in ensuring that the Administration operates transparently and in compliance with all applicable conflict of interest regulations and policies.”

The members continued, “These reports raise significant concerns regarding Mr. Icahn’s ability to advise President Trump impartially on regulatory matters that impact Mr. Icahn’s financial interests. This is especially troubling because, as an unpaid adviser, Mr. Icahn presumably has not undergone a review by the Office of Government Ethics and is not subject to conflicts of interest regulations applicable to government employees.”

The letter asks Pruitt to explain Icahn’s role in the discussion and development of agency actions regarding the RFS and asks the EPA to provide a copy of all communications or memos exchanged between Icahn and EPA personnel related to the RFS program. The letter also asks Pruitt to explain what disclosure is required by the EPA when it receives communication from unpaid advisors of the president; provide information pertaining to meetings and calls between EPA personnel and Icahn; explain EPA policies and procedures that govern disclosure of non-public, confidential or otherwise privileged information to individuals serving as unpaid advisors to the president; describe policies or procedures that ensure unpaid advisors do not have undue access to EPA officials; and discuss other actions the EPA has taken to safeguard against undue influence by the president’s unpaid advisors.

The letter is signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J.; Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill.; Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Diana DeGette , D-Colo.; Subcommittee on Environment Ranking Member Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-N.Y.; and Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes, D-M.D.

The letter is the latest in a series of actions by federal lawmakers seeking answers to Icahn’s role in setting RFS policy. In May, a group of senators issued a letter to the heads of the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. EPA calling for an investigation of Icahn for potential insider trading, market manipulation and other securities and commodities law violations related to the market for RINs. In June, a separate group of senators sent a letter to Pruitt requesting any information the agency has on Icahn’s role in crafting policy and regulations at the EPA, particularly with regard to the RFS.