Greenpeace urged a watchdog group Thursday to force President Donald Trump’s secretary of state to recuse himself from signing off on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The group asked the Office of Government Ethics, the federal watchdog responsible for weeding out conflicts of interest in the executive branch, to clarify how the pipeline’s approval doesn’t conflict with Rex Tillerson’s past role as CEO of ExxonMobil. The former oil executive has direct authority over Keystone’s approval process.
“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,” Greenpeace wrote in a letter to the group.
Greenpeace believes Tillerson could financially benefit from a completed Keystone, which attempts to shuttle crude nearly 1,200 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Annie Leonard, the group’s executive director, said the head of the Department of State will almost certainly benefit from other oil projects Exxon is invested in.
“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,” said Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA’s executive director. “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.”
Trump approved the previously rejected pipeline in January after former President Barack Obama initially rejected it under the guise the oil project would tarnish the country’s image as a climate change-warrior.
Activists targeted the former Exxon CEO during his Senate confirmation hearings in February.
The anti-fossil fuel campaign did not deliver as expected. The Senate confirmed Tillerson with 56 votes in favor and 43 against. Three Democrats ultimately defected to confirm the former oilman.
Activist Jamie Henn, the communications director for environmental group 350.org, told reporters in January that “this hearing could become a Big Tobacco-like moment,” and that the confirmation hearings would be “turned into a full-scale investigation,” adding, “We’ll make sure that Senators are asking every single question possible about Exxon’s deception and Tillerson’s participation in it.”
Investigations into the company’s history of supposedly hiding climate research are partially the result of a September report on Exxon conducted by InsideClimate News. The outlet also claims that companies like Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, and others joined Exxon in misleading the public about the supposed effects of global warming on sea levels.
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