The biofuels battle continues as Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, is filing a complaint to Congress that billionaire Carl Icahn is violating lobbying rules by pushing White House officials to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Link to complaint.
The group charges that Icahn, his company Icahn Enterprises and the CVR oil refining company he owns failed to register as lobbyists, yet pushed the White House to change the EPA’s biofuel rules — a move that would save Icahn’s company hundreds of millions of dollars. Icahn is a White House special adviser for regulatory reform, a position President Donald Trump announced in December (link). But Icahn, the White House said at the time, would “not be serving as a federal employee or a special government employee and will not have any specific duties.”
Icahn owns an 82% stake in refiner CVR Energy Inc, which along with other refining companies, have urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to shift the RFS blending obligation away from them.
According to the Public Citizen complaint, he submitted a proposal to the White House on Feb. 27 to overhaul the RFS program and shift the burden for complying with the rules to fuel wholesalers. The letter to the secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House calls for an investigation into whether Icahn and CVR’s activities constitute lobbying of the White House for changes to the program. The complaint also cites Icahn’s work in helping select EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and the proposed language he and fellow oil refiner Valero Energy submitted to the White House for a memo that would direct EPA to make the change.
“All of this has occurred with no record of any [Lobbying Disclosure Act/LDA] filings by or on behalf of Mr. Icahn, Icahn Enterprises or CVR Energy,” the complaint noted. Individuals spending more than 20% of their work time on preparation, research and other activities to facilitate lobbying must register as lobbyists. They also have to satisfy other conditions, including certain level of expenditures and at least one lobbying contact with a covered official. While Icahn is unlikely to have spent more than 20% of his time lobbying, the Public Citizen letter said it “is unlikely that all these activities occurred without some individual or entity being obligated to report lobbying activity under” Lobbying Disclosure Act