State Department: Tillerson has recused himself from Keystone decision

State Department: Tillerson has recused himself from Keystone decision
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The State Department says Secretary Rex Tillerson has recused himself from decisions related to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. 

Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., “recused himself from working on issues related to TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline,” a State Department ethics official wrote in a letter to Greenpeace on Thursday. 

“He has not worked on the matter at the Department of State and will play no role in the deliberations or ultimate resolution of TransCanada’s application,” wrote Katherine McManus in a letter released by the Office of Government Ethics. 


Greenpeace formally urged the Office of Government Ethics and the State Department to ask for Tillerson’s recusal in a Tuesday letter. The group noted Exxon, the company Tillerson led until December, would benefit from Keystone’s construction because the project would raise the value of crude oil from Alberta, where Exxon has investments. 

Because Keystone XL would pass across an international boarder, it requires a presidential permit to move forward. Then-President Obama — on advice from his State Department, led by John KerryJohn KerryHow the US could help Australia develop climate action Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power No. 2 State Department official to travel to China amid tensions MORE — denied TransCanada’s application in 2015, but President Trump signed an order reopening the application process in January. 

TransCanada has since reapplied for a presidential permit, putting the decision back in the State Department’s hands and raising greens’ concerns that Tillerson could fast-track the project.

"Rex Tillerson's recusal from the Keystone Pipeline decision might have never been transparent to the public without people flooding the lines of the Office of Government Ethics today," Greenpeace USA climate and energy campaigner Diana Best said in a statement.

"We must keep pushing this administration into the spotlight and demanding that ethics watchdogs hold these individuals accountable and make these decisions regarding rampant conflicts of interest transparent," she added.

The group said it is continuing to request that the Office of Government Ethics release any information linked to the recusal, including "any information about recusals, waivers requested or sought, and further ethics disclosures."

— Updated: 7:14 p.m.