Dems probe Trump adviser Icahn’s role in ethanol policy

Dems probe Trump adviser Icahn’s role in ethanol policy
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Senate Democrats are investigating the role that President Trump’s adviser Carl Icahn is playing in setting the administration’s ethanol policy.

The Democrats are concerned that Icahn, a prolific investor whose holding company owns more than 80 percent of fuel refiner CVR Energy, is using his advisory role to steer ethanol policies in his favor.

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems in Germany: Trump can't stop clean energy revolution Senate Dems demand answers on Social Security info given to election integrity commission Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win MORE (D-R.I.) and six of his colleagues wrote to White House counsel Don McGahn Monday, asking for details about what Icahn's interactions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), how he influenced Trump’s decision to pick Scott Pruitt to lead the agency, whether Icahn is recusing himself from some matters and more.

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Details that have been reported about Icahn and his role in the administration “suggest a conflict of interest between Mr. Icahn and advice he gave President Trump on the nomination of Mr. Pruitt,” the senators wrote.

“They further suggest he will be actively working to change RFS regulations to benefit CVR. And with a sprawling business empire and potentially unlimited portfolio in the administration to address ‘strangling regulations,’ Mr. Icahn’s role presents an unacceptable risk of further real or potential conflicts of interest absent immediate and thorough steps to address them.”

Trump announced in December that Icahn would be a “special adviser” on regulatory and deregulatory matters and would not be a government employee in any way.

Icahn has been pushing the EPA to tweak the renewable fuel standard in a way that would remove a regulatory “point of obligation” — the responsibility for demonstrating compliance with blending mandates — from fuel refiners and move that obligation to another party in the supply chain.

He wrote last year that the current system is costing CVR hundreds of millions of dollars.

In November, when President Obama was still in the White House, the EPA proposed to formally reject a petition from CVR and other refiners to make the regulatory tweak. But the agency extended the public comment period for that proposal to February, putting the ball in Trump’s court.

At Pruitt’s January confirmation hearing, senators asked him about the ethanol mandate and tried to ascertain whether he would make the obligation change that CVR seeks.

Pruitt largely avoided the question, saying only that he would follow the law, which leaves matters like obligation up to the EPA.