Exxon Mobil requested a waiver Wednesday from U.S. sanctions against Russia in hopes of doing business with a competing energy company.
The oil company has asked for permission to drill with state-run PAO Rosneft in places under sanctions. Exxon renewed the push in March, a month after its former CEO, Rex Tillerson became the U.S. Secretary of State, people familiar with the matter told reporters.
Exxon’s original application for a waiver in 2015 was rejected, one of the sources said.
It’s most recent waiver request could become a contested issue in Congress, especially among lawmakers who want stricter sanctions against Russia. Democrats and a handful of Republicans fear the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, helped sway the U.S. presidential election to President Donald Trump.
The State Department is one of the agencies that could potentially play a part in granting the company a waiver. Tillerson, for his part, has recused himself from making decisions affecting the any of Exxon’s business dealings, including the government’s ultimate decision to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Tillerson was opposed to blanket Russian sanctions during his time with the energy company.
The Treasury Department, which will ultimately determine the fate of the approval request, told reporters that it is unable to comment about the waiver application process. Exxon did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for the publication of this article.
Exxon and other major oil companies have worked to tap into Russia’s unused oil reserves. The country has more than 100 billion barrels of untouched energy resources.
The sanctions scuttled an exploration deal Exxon signed with Rosneft in 2012. It would have granted Exxon access to drill in Russia’s Arctic waters, as well as areas near the Black Sea, an area with rich natural resources.
Sanctions have been limited in the past. Exxon received a waiver in 2014, for instance, when the company was working on a well in the Russian Arctic.
Democrats, meanwhile, are blasting Exxon’s request. California Rep. Adam Sshiff called on the Treasury Department to deny the company’s request. Sshiff is the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s supposed role in the presidential election.
“The Treasury Department should reject any waiver from sanctions which would allow Exxon Mobil or any other company to resume business with prohibited Russian entities,” Schiff said in a statement.
Tillerson, for his part, has repeatedly maintained his support for the sanctions, which were initially approved because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
“Crimea-related sanctions must remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine. Even in the face of Russia’s aggression, Ukraine has accomplished a great deal domestically,” the State Secretary said during a meeting in March of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, according to CBS News.
“We applaud recent reform successes, including anti-corruption efforts and pursuing necessary reforms to meet IMF conditionality.”
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