In this Oct. 11, 2007 file photo, Carl Icahn speaks in New York. 
Photo by Mark Lennihan/File/AP

The EPA does a lucrative favor for Carl Icahn, a key Trump ally

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/5/18, 9:00 PM ET

Icahn role shows common thread in Pruitt ethics, policy scandals

Rachel Maddow looks at the relationship between Donald Trump adviser Carl Icahn and EPA chief Scott Pruitt and how Icahn’s business interests intertwine with Pruitt’s ethics scandals and peculiar EPA policies.
At last count, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has found himself at the middle of 13 separate investigations. New reporting from Reuters points to a controversy that should probably become the 14th.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 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 under a federal biofuels law, according to two industry sources briefed on the matter.

The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The regulation is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year.

The company sought a waiver from the Obama administration, which rejected the request. Trump’s EPA appears to have reached the opposite conclusion.

Brooke Coleman, head of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council industry group, told Reuters, in reference to the EPA’s scandal-plagued chief, “This one’s going to be hard for Pruitt to explain.”

That’s true. After all, Reuters’ report noted that Icahn is currently facing a Justice Department investigation for his role in “influencing biofuels policy” while serving as Donald Trump’s special adviser to the president on regulatory reform. Now Trump’s EPA is reportedly giving a waiver to one of Icahn’s companies, allowing him to sidestep regulations on biofuels policy.

And if all of this sounds a little familiar, there’s a very good reason for that.

Rachel put all of this in context on the show a few weeks ago. Indeed, this  New Yorker piece was published last summer on Carl Icahn allegedly using his influence with the president, and leveraging his role as a White House adviser on regulations, to benefit his investment.

Icahn resigned from his position on Trump’s team the day the New Yorker piece was published. (Because this White House is often ridiculous, Trump World then pretended Icahn had never actually served as the president’s regulatory czar, which was demonstrably absurd.)

And just in case this story weren’t quite troubling enough, let’s also not forget that Scott Pruitt may have his job at the EPA in part because of Icahn. From the aforementioned New Yorker  piece:

When potential Cabinet secretaries visited Trump Tower to meet with the President-elect, they were sometimes sent for a second interview – with Icahn…. When Scott Pruitt visited Trump Tower to discuss the top job at the E.P.A., the President-elect concluded the interview by instructing him to walk two blocks uptown to meet with Icahn. Trump, according to a Bloomberg News account, told him, “He has some questions for you.” Pruitt was precisely the sort of candidate that Icahn might favor. A fierce opponent of environmental regulation, Pruitt had spent years, as the attorney general of Oklahoma, suing the agency that he was now in talks to oversee. Even so, Pruitt knew that Icahn would likely want to discuss one particular issue – RIN credits – and as Pruitt and an aide headed up Fifth Avenue they searched the Internet for information on the credits system and its impact on Icahn’s refiner.

Pruitt was nominated on December 8th. The next day, Icahn said in an interview with Bloomberg News, “I’ve spoken to Scott Pruitt four or five times. I told Donald that he is somebody who will do away with many of the problems at the E.P.A.”

It’s Pruitt’s EPA that just gave Icahn’s company a waiver that may be worth tens of millions of dollars, which brings me back to that “This one’s going to be hard for Pruitt to explain” quote.

Corruption, Culture of Corruption and EPA

The EPA does a lucrative favor for Carl Icahn, a key Trump ally