Senators seek answers on CVR waiver from Pruitt, Icahn

By Erin Voegele | May 10, 2018

On May 8, a group of senators sent letters to U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Carl Icahn, billionaire former advisor to President Donald Trump and chairman of CVR Energy Inc., to request information on reports that the EPA granted CVR an economic hardship waiver under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The letters were signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Tina Smith, D-Minn. According to information released by Warren’s office, the same group of senators previously raised concerns about Icahn’s actions related to the RFS and his access to key RFS decision makers within the Trump administration when he was a White House special advisor. The senators have expressed concern that Icahn, who is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors for potential illegal activity while working as a White House advisor to change RFS regulations, received a hardship waiver even though CVR made a profit of more than $230 million last year.

In the letter to Icahn, the senators note that he resigned from his White House position in August 2017 following reports that he was actively working to change RFS regulations to benefit CVR. “You ‘made a massive bet in 2016’ that the price of the renewable fuel credits would drop,” the senators wrote. “You then—as an unpaid advisor to President Trump—recommended personnel and policies that did in fact cause the price of these credits to drop. The net result was an ‘impossible’ ‘rare profit’ on the credits, ‘$50 million turnaround’ from your initial investment.”

The senators note that Icahn publicly supported Pruitt’s nomination for EPA administrator and claimed he was consulted before President-elect Trump selected him for the position. Following Pruitt’s nomination, the letter quotes Icahn as saying “He’s someone I think will do away with many of the problems at EPA…and I do think he feels strongly about the absurdity of these [RFS] obligations….”

In order to better understand reports that CVR was able to qualify for a hardship exemption, the senators ask that Icahn provide them with answers to a list of specific questions by May 22.

The letter to Pruitt includes similar language and asks Pruitt to respond to a separate set of questions by May 22. The request includes information related to EPA’s reasoning and process for awarding CVR with the hardship waiver, including data used to demonstrate “disproportionate economic hardship” and the names of officials at EPA who determined CVR was entitled to a hardship waiver. Pruitt is also asked to identify any White House officials involved in, or aware of, the decision to grant a waiver to CVR.

Full copies of the letters to Icahn and Pruitt can be downloaded from Warren’s website.