When last counted, Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, has become the center of thirteen individual investigations. Reuters has released a new report that may reveal the 14th.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted a financial hardship waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, exempting the Oklahoma facility from requirements under a federal biofuels law, according to two industry sources briefed on the matter.
The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The regulation is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year.
The company’s attempt to acquire a waiver from Obama’s administration was rejected. It appears that Trump’s EPA has reached a countering conclusion.
Head of the industry group Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Brooke Coleman, told Reuters, “This one’s going to be hard for Pruitt to explain.”
He’s right. Reuters reported that Icahn currently faces a Justice Department investigation for his role in “influencing biofuels policy” while serving as Donald Trump’s special adviser to the president on regulatory reform. Now Trump’s EPA is reportedly giving a waiver to one of Icahn’s companies, allowing him to sidestep regulations on biofuels policy.
And if all of this sounds a little familiar, there’s a very good reason for that.
Rachel put all of this in context on the show a few weeks ago. Indeed, this New Yorker piece was published last summer on Carl Icahn allegedly using his influence with the president, and leveraging his role as a White House adviser on regulations, to benefit his investment.
Icahn resigned from his position on Trump’s team the day the New Yorker piece was published. (Because this White House is often ridiculous, Trump World then pretended Icahn had never actually served as the president’s regulatory czar, which was demonstrably absurd.)
And just in case this story weren’t quite troubling enough, let’s also not forget that Scott Pruitt may have his job at the EPA in part because of Icahn. From the aforementioned New Yorker piece:
When potential Cabinet secretaries visited Trump Tower to meet with the President-elect, they were sometimes sent for a second interview – with Icahn…. When Scott Pruitt visited Trump Tower to discuss the top job at the E.P.A., the President-elect concluded the interview by instructing him to walk two blocks uptown to meet with Icahn. Trump, according to a Bloomberg News account, told him, “He has some questions for you.” Pruitt was precisely the sort of candidate that Icahn might favor. A fierce opponent of environmental regulation, Pruitt had spent years, as the attorney general of Oklahoma, suing the agency that he was now in talks to oversee. Even so, Pruitt knew that Icahn would likely want to discuss one particular issue – RIN credits – and as Pruitt and an aide headed up Fifth Avenue they searched the Internet for information on the credits system and its impact on Icahn’s refiner.
Pruitt was nominated on December 8th. The next day, Icahn said in an interview with Bloomberg News, “I’ve spoken to Scott Pruitt four or five times. I told Donald that he is somebody who will do away with many of the problems at the E.P.A.”
It’s Pruitt’s EPA that just gave Icahn’s company a waiver that may be worth tens of millions of dollars, which brings me back to that “This one’s going to be hard for Pruitt to explain” quote.