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Greenpeace Demands Rex Tillerson Recuse Himself from KXL Decision

Exxon stands to profit from the pipeline’s construction


With a letter from Executive Director Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA launched a campaign today asking the Office of Government Ethics to urge that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recuse himself from decisions regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.

Read the full letter here.

"When a decision about Keystone, or other oil and gas projects, reaches Rex Tillerson's desk, he will only see dollar signs for Exxon with no regard for what the people want and the impact on our climate. It's time for the Office of Government Ethics to do their job and urge that Tillerson recuse himself from decisions regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline," said Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. "People who only view the world through a lens of drilling for oil and gas should be nowhere near federal decisions about oil and gas. That is why you don't nominate and confirm a former Exxon CEO to be the chief diplomat of the United States."

Greenpeace is collecting petitions to deliver to the Office of Government Ethics in addition to using a call tool directly to the OGE. The 60-day period designated by the White House for the State Department to issue a decision regarding TransCanada's permits would expire as early as March 27.

Tillerson's recent employer, ExxonMobil stands to profit from the Keystone XL pipeline if it is constructed. The company is heavily invested in tar sands production that would be served by the pipeline. Approval of Keystone XL would increase the value of tar sands oil sold on global markets, and hence the value of ExxonMobil's tar sands assets. As such, ExxonMobil stands to materially benefit from the approval of the pipeline granted by its former CEO Tillerson.

Greenpeace's letter to the Office of Government Ethics states that "given OGE's focus on prevention and their praise of Tillerson's ethics commitments, the time is ripe for OGE to clarify exactly what those commitments mean in one of their first real tests and first real decisions Tillerson may take relating to his former employer."

Despite his promise under oath to recuse himself from decisions regarding Exxon, Tillerson's ability to follow through on that promise or objectively make decisions that could impact Exxon is questionable. He claimed at his Congressional confirmation hearing that neither he nor Exxon had lobbied against Russian sanctions when there were lobbying reports that seemed to suggest otherwise.1 Earlier this week, after a meeting between Tillerson and Trump, the White House released a press release that appeared to plagiarize an Exxon press release sent hours before.

"Rex Tillerson and the Senators who confirmed him have tarnished a once dignified office that worked to promote global diplomacy and progress. Tillerson's tenure has so far been a mess, but we can still demand a separation of oil and state," Leonard said. "Federal agencies in charge of holding people accountable must help clean up the mess made by Trump and his spineless allies in Congress."

In addition to the Office of Government Ethics, Greenpeace also sent the letter with the recusal request to the State Department Office of the Legal Adviser.

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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