Reuters is reporting that The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 of the Renewable Fuels Standard. The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc. to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs to be compliant with the RFS.
An early supporter of Trump’s 2016 presidential run, Icahn had met with Pruitt when Pruitt was being vetted in late 2016 for the EPA administrator job, according to news reports at the time. Icahn stepped down from his position as special regulatory adviser to the Republican president last August after lawmakers cited potential ethical problems in his dual role as an adviser and an investor. He is currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for his role in influencing biofuels policy while serving as Trump’s adviser. Some U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that Icahn may have used his presidential access to benefit his investments, a charge Icahn has rejected.
Pruitt told reporters last week that he is following the RFS statute as written.
“I can’t emphasize enough that the granting of the small refinery exemptions is objectively determined. It’s not policy. It’s not subjective. There are criteria that we have to consider. DOE data, the amount produced on a daily basis, it’s a facility-by-facility review. All that is driven objectively, and then we make an informed decision based upon that data. It’s that simple.”
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told Reuters that the agency does not comment on specific refineries. “But, what I can tell you is that the criteria used to grant waivers has not changed since previous administrations,” Bowman added.
18 farm-state senators from both sides of the aisle, including Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, penned another letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. In their letter, the senators make two specific requests. First, they ask the EPA Administrator to provide an expected timeline for an administrative Reid Vapor Pressure or RVP waiver. Second, they request the agency allow for the sale of E-15 during the upcoming summer driving season in the meantime.
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor released the following statement:
“Carl Icahn interviewed Scott Pruitt for the job, and now Icahn stands to make millions more from a secret EPA handout. This is just one more example of the EPA taking money out of the pockets of American farmers and undermining President Trump’s promises to rural communities. The EPA is giving refineries everything they want, at the expense of rural families, while refusing to move forward on the President’s pledge to lift barriers against year-round sales of E15.
“Congress and the White House need to rein in EPA and return the agency to serving the president’s promised agenda, including growth in biofuel production and rural job creation.”