If billionaire energy investor Carl Icahn was attempting to convince President Donald Trump's administration to change the Renewable Fuel Standard, that influence may not have included officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or other political appointees, according to a letter Monday sent from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Icahn has been a vocal critic of the RFS and has pushed for a change in the point of obligation, which determines which entities have to comply with the regulation. Trump selected Icahn as a special adviser on regulatory reform issues on Dec. 21, 2016.
Last spring five Democratic senators including Whitehouse, Debbie Stabenow, Jeffrey A. Merkley, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth asked Pruitt for documents regarding Icahn's involvement in setting policy in the new administration.
In a letter to Whitehouse on Monday, Pruitt said his agency found no contacts between Icahn and EPA staff and political appointees.
"Mr. Icahn was one of many of the president's advisors that I met with during my confirmation process," Pruitt writes.
"During that meeting, I made no assurances with regard to the point of obligation or any other substantive issue. Additionally, to be responsive to your request, EPA's Office of Environmental Information searched the EPA e-mail boxes of 39 senior leadership employees, including both political and career staff. There were no emails to or from any of those employees and Mr. Icahn or CVR (CVR Energy, Icahn's company) on any subject, including ones responsive to your request. The search covered the period from Feb. 17 to Aug. 18, 2017."
In recent months Icahn announced he was no longer serving as an advisor to the president. Pruitt said in the letter the agency has not taken final action on the point of obligation.
"I will continue to rely on the counsel of my talented staff - both political and career - to provide advice and inform the agency's decision making with regard to the RFS," Pruitt said.
Icahn's involvement with the administration hit a boiling point earlier this year when Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen said the president was planning to issue an executive order changing the point of obligation in the Renewable Fuel Standard. The point of obligation determines which entities are responsible for meeting the biofuels mandates. The president never did sign such an executive order.
In early May, a group of eight Democratic senators wrote to multiple federal agencies asking them to investigate whether energy companies owned by Icahn financially benefitted from his position as a special adviser.
The senators allege there may have been a connection between Icahn's involvement with the administration and potential financial benefit for his companies as a result.
Icahn is the majority owner of petroleum refiner CVR Energy, a company that has been involved in the renewable fuel credits market. Icahn has been critical of the renewable identification numbers, or RIN, system used by obligated parties to comply with RFS obligations.
Todd Neeley can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN
© Copyright 2017 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.