Tillerson and Exxon environmental record: statement and background

Tillerson and Exxon environmental record: statement and background

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Donald Trump has chosen Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as his Secretary of State. 

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica issued the following statement and backgrounder:

As head of the State Department, Tillerson would have the ability to shape foreign policy to enrich himself and Exxon at the expense of people and environment.

Tillerson and Exxon have a long history of funding climate denial and causing environmental catastrophes like the Exxon Valdez.

For decades ExxonMobil covered up its knowledge of the link between fossil fuels and climate change, while funding climate denial groups. More recently, it has continued to cynically fund climate denial and used its trade organization the American Petroleum Institute to undermine climate initiatives like the Clean Power Plan, even as it publicly called for a revenue-neutral carbon tax to solve climate change.

Having ExxonMobil’s CEO run the State Department would be the ultimate bad deal for Americans and our climate.

Background information about Tillerson’s environmental record:

  1. Threats to Paris Agreement: The State Department is the U.S. agency charged with leading international climate negotiations and therefore Tillerson would be responsible for carrying out Trump’s promise to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. While last year ExxonMobil belatedly supported the Paris Agreement, Exxon fossil reserves valued at billions of dollars that would be worthless if the world addresses climate change.
  2. Dropping sanctions against Russia: Trump has said that he would consider lifting sanctions against Russia and recognizing Crimea as Russian territory. Tillerson has been a strong opponent of U.S. sanctions against Russia and they have hindered ExxonMobil’s massive projects in the Russian Arctic. According to John Hamre, president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (for which Tillerson is a board member), Tillerson has close relationship with Putin and states that “has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger.” Sen. John McCain has called Tillerson’s ties to Putin to be “a matter of concern.” Lifting sanctions could lead the way for the U.S. Export-Import Bank to lift its suspension of support for projects and companies in Russia, including the enormous $27 billion Yamal LNG export project, which Ex-Im Bank had suspended consideration for financing in 2014.
  3. Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline: Trump has said clearly that he intends to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. As a trans-boundary project, the Keystone XL Pipeline requires State Department approval. Thus, as Secretary of State, Tillerson would be responsible deciding whether to overturn President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Tillerson has repeatedly urged approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. 
  4. Opening up the Arctic to drilling: Trump has promised to open up Alaska to more oil drilling. The State Department plays a key role in international bodies including the Arctic Council, where key agreements are made on the protection of Arctic environments and its Indigenous communities from impacts of oil and gas projects, including those of ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil already has a significant interest in the Russian Arctic and could be interested in U.S. Arctic as well.
  5. Reversing or reneging on U.S. commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, while ramping up U.S. subsidies for fossil fuel projects abroad: President Obama played a leadership role in the 2009 G20 agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. As Secretary of State, Tillerson could go back on those commitments. ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies receive over $10 billion in subsidies annually from the U.S. government. Despite the G20 commitment, U.S. Ex-Im Bank has already provided a $3 billion subsidy for ExxonMobil’s deadly Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural Gas project, and could likely provide more under the Trump administration.
  6. Widespread conflicts of interest: State Department embassies abroad serve as platforms to promote U.S. companies. Since ExxonMobil operates facilities or market products in most of the world’s countries and explores for oil and natural gas on six continents, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would have financial conflicts of interests worldwide.

For more information contact:
Erich Pica, president, Friends of the Earth U.S., (240) 432-3470, [email protected]
Kate Colwell, media relations manager, Friends of the Earth U.S., (703) 622-9093, [email protected]

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