November 09, 2017

Duckworth: Wehrum and White’s EPA Nominations Add to Trump’s Pattern of Nominating Unqualified, Ethically-Challenged People for Taxpayer-funded Positions


[WASHINGTON, DC] -U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) pressed Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump's choice to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, on her previous statements expressing opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as well as her financial ties to former WH Special Advisor Carl Icahn during Hartnett White's Senate confirmation hearing. Shortly after Duckworth's questioning yesterday, Icahn publicly revealed the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York recently subpoenaed him regarding allegations he influenced RFS policy while in the White House, despite his financial interests being significantly linked to the RFS. Duckworth had previously asked the FBI and the Department of Justice to launch a criminal investigation into whether Icahn's actions violated federal anti-corruption law. Under 18 USC §208, executive branch employees (including special government employees) are prohibited from participating personally and substantially or providing advice or recommendations in a government matter that directly affects their own financial interests.

"Ms. White's misleading answers on her financial ties to long-time foes of the RFS like the oil industry and Carl Icahn, as well as her history of making outlandish statements in opposition to the RFS, is deeply troubling," said Duckworth. "On a number of occasions, Ms. White has spread misinformation about the effectiveness of the RFS program and she has repeatedly tried to dismantle it."

In 2014, Ms. White wrote that "using a vitally needed global food grant grain, such as corn, the transportation fuel known as ethanol, literally takes food from the mouths of hungry millions." She has also previously stated that the RFS is "unethical" and "should be replaced." During Ms. White's meeting with Senator Duckworth on November 2nd, White stated that she did not have any ties to the oil industry. Yet, it was discovered that Ms. White gifted her oil leases, which were leased under CVR refining (a company owned by Carl Icahn), only after she became interested in being nominated to lead the Council on Environmental Quality.

Following the hearing, Duckworth also joined the Ranking Member of the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee (EPW) Tom Carper (D-DE), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) at press conference where she highlighted the disastrous effects Bill Wehrum would have on RFS policy as the leader of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. Video of the speech is available here.

"Our nation, and especially the farmers across the great bread-basket of this country, deserve better than nominees like Bill Wehrum, who represents yet another broken campaign trail promise from President Trump," said Duckworth. "I've already fought a war over foreign oil, and I would much rather put American grown corn into the gas tank of my pick-up truck than I would foreign oil."

Duckworth outlined her opposition to Mr. Wehrum's nomination in an op-ed in The Hill, where she explained the importance of the RFS in reviving rural economies, reducing greenhouse gases, and making our nation less dependent on foreign oil. During Mr. Wehrum's testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he claimed to be "somewhat unfamiliar" with the RFS, despite participating in at least four separate RFS-related lawsuits against the EPA. He was also the Assistant Secretary in charge of the EPA office that had jurisdiction over the RFS when it was implemented.

Duckworth has been a vocal critic of efforts within the Trump administration to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard. In Illinois, the RFS supports more than 4,000 jobs and generates more than $5 billion dollars in economic impact. Nationwide, it is supporting 86,000 direct jobs and it has helped generate $8.7 billion in tax revenues that go to schools, roads and first responders.