CIEL Statement on the Nomination Hearing of Rex Tillerson for US Secretary of State

January 11, 2016

Today, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson will appear before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions about his nomination for Secretary of State. Tillerson’s nomination has been widely criticized for his severe and pervasive conflicts of interests, lack of governmental experience, close ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, and his company’s troubling record of climate denial, environmental destruction, and alleged human rights abuses.

Carroll Muffett, President of the Center for International Environmental Law, issued the following statement:

In Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump has nominated the one person who faces more profound and intractable conflicts of interest than Trump himself. From climate change to human rights to trade policy, Tillerson has spent his entire career advancing the interests of ExxonMobil at the expense of the American people and indeed the world. Nearly every decision he takes will affect—and potentially benefit—his oil industry allies: Is Keystone XL in the national interest? Will the US deliver on its commitments under the Paris Agreement? Will the US become a leader in renewables or a petro-State? This country speaks to the world through the Secretary of State; is it really Exxon’s voice we want them to hear?

With so many and so egregious conflicts of interest, Senators should have only one real question for Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing: ”Are you kidding me?”

More information:
As CEO of Exxon, Tillerson continued the company’s decades-long efforts to undermine climate science and climate action, funneling millions of dollars to groups that spread misinformation on climate change and oppose climate action. He led similar efforts by Exxon to block critically needed regulations on toxic phthalates in children’s toys. As Secretary of State, he will shape the United States’ role in the Paris Climate Agreement, decide the future of disastrous fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and oversee US engagement in global efforts to eliminate dangerous chemicals from our bodies and our environment.

He also holds an exceptionally close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has not only benefited himself financially, but also run directly counter to American interests and foreign policy positions.

At a time when Exxon faces a battery of legal inquiries into possible climate fraud and human rights violations, placing its leader at the head of US foreign policy is unthinkable. It sends a message to the world that the US State Department is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon.

Last year, a US district court judge ruled that Indonesian plaintiffs alleging Exxon security forces tortured and killed villagers in the late 1990’s could sue the company in the United States because of allegations that top company officials were aware of the abuses.

Among the world’s largest historic contributors to industrial carbon emissions, Exxon is also under investigation by human rights authorities in the Philippines for its role in violating human rights of local populations affected by climate disasters.

The US State Department cannot be led by someone who has spent his career at a company that is mired in accusations of climate denial, disregard for the environment, and human rights abuses.