The man in charge of executing the president’s deregulation plan is already targeting rules that will enrich his own interests.
President Donald Trump appointed Carl Icahn, a businessman who bailed Trump out of his failed Atlantic City Casino Trump Taj Mahal, as his administration’s “deregulation czar.” This move courted controversy, especially since Icahn would not have to divest himself of his holdings worth an estimated $16 billion.
As we reported at the time, Icahn is “a conflict-of-interest nightmare” who was likely to recommend ending a regulation dealing with the EPA’s mandate that a specific percentage of fuel be biofuel not fossil fuels. That speculation appears to be correct.
“Trump’s administration plans to issue an executive order changing the Renewable Fuel Standard so that oil refiners would no longer be responsible for meeting the EPA biofuels mandates, leaving that job instead to gasoline wholesalers…likely to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to CVR Energy,”a company owned by none other than Icahn Politico reported on Monday.
The Trump administration denied the report, but no one told Icahn, it appears.
Icahn and the leading U.S. biofuel trade group struck a deal to revamp a law that mandates oil refiners to either blend petroleum-based fuels with ethanol and biodiesel, or buy blending credits called RINs, according to people familiar with the agreement, and the shares rose earlier in the day on the news. They slipped after the White House said there was no deal.
Merchant refiners including Icahn’s CVR Refining and Valero Energy Corp. would benefit from a deal. Gasoline blenders that operate fuel stations such as Casey’s General Stores Inc. and Murphy USA Inc. would have to shoulder the costs.
“It’s a bailout. This was a back-room ‘deal’ made by people who want out of their obligations under the Clean Air Act,” Jeff Broin, CEO of the largest ethanol producer told the Intercept. Others involved in the industry all say that this seems less about fairness or deregulation and more about enriching Icahn, who will reportedly pocket about $126 million from the change.
In the face of this move despite recent denials, the White House says that Icahn’s position with the government is not official so therefore there is no problem. “He is simply a private citizen whose opinion the president respects and whom the president speaks with from time to time,” Stefan Passantino, deputy counsel to the president for compliance and ethics told Newsmax on Wednesday.
“When Trump gave him a title, he conveyed a formal role to Icahn for formulating policy,” Tyler Slocum of watchdog group Public Citizen said, adding “Icahn is formulating policy to benefit his direct financial interests.”
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