After reporting a net income of $234.4 million last year, billionaire investor Carl Icahn—a former regulatory adviser to President Donald Trump—has received a "financial hardship" waiver from the EPA, exempting his oil company from complying with fuel regulations.
This is big. Even as Carl Icahn's refinery is investigated by DOJ for dodgy dealings on ethanol credits, Scott Pruitt quietly grants Icahn a waiver that will save the refiner tens of millions. @reuters with the scoop https://t.co/oXEGuFvikS
— Patrick Radden Keefe (@praddenkeefe) April 30, 2018
As Reuters reported, the waiver is meant for small oil refineries that can prove that compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program would cause them "disproportionate financial hardship."
The RFS program requires large oil companies to mix biofuels like ethanol with oil and gas to cut down on air pollution, support corn farmers, and reduce gas imports. Companies are required to earn or purchase tradable credits for each gallon of blended fuel, to prove compliance.
Icahn's company stands to save tens of millions of dollars per year thanks to the exemption, which had previously been denied by the Obama administration.
In response to the news, the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen demanded an immediate investigation into the waiver:
We’re calling for an investigation into billionaire Carl Icahn, a close friend of Trump’s, receiving an EPA ‘hardship’ waiver worth tens of millions. Icahn’s two refineries posted a combined profit of $286M in 2017 and $115M in the first 3 months of 2018. https://t.co/BbsOGnDKgF
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) April 30, 2018
Icahn has long fought for the elimination of the RFS program, sending former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy an 11-page letter in 2016 calling the credit market "rigged" and complaining that it could send refineries into bankruptcy.
Icahn was an early supporter of Trump and met with Scott Pruitt in late 2016, weeks before he was named EPA administrator, according to reports at the time.
"This one's going to be hard for Pruitt to explain," Brooke Coleman, head of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council industry group, told Reuters of the EPA's decision to grant CVR Energy the RFS waiver.
The businessman stepped down from his position as Trump's regulatory adviser last summer after lawmakers raised concerns that he was influencing biofuel policy and using his access to the president to benefit his financial investments. Icahn is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice.