USA: Human rights & environmental NGOs raise concerns over nomination of ExxonMobil CEO as Secretary of State

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10 January 2017

NGO letter to US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations re nomination of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

Author: 16 NGOs & investor groups incl. Intl. Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), EarthRights Intl., FIDH, Global Witness, Greenpeace USA

We...write to express our strong concerns and reservations about the candidacy of Mr. Rex Tillerson as the United States Secretary of State. We urge you to use the confirmation hearings to elicit a response from Mr. Tillerson on how, if confirmed, he will uphold America’s international obligations and commitments to the rule of law, respect for human rights and workers’ rights, and protection of the environment. The U.S. government has a longstanding commitment to promoting human rights, including through...endorsing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights... In the past decade, Mr. Tillerson served as the Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil, a company with a dangerous track record on human rights and the environment...

The Department of State plays an important role in promoting labor rights and enhancing economic security and working conditions for workers abroad. Will Mr. Tillerson continue to support and strengthen international labor standards and fundamental principles and rights at work? Through which steps?

Will Mr. Tillerson support and expand upon the National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct developed under the Obama Administration?

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13 December 2016

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is, strangely, the most pro-climate Trump nominee

Author: Andrew Freedman, (USA)

Exxon is currently under investigation by the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands for researching climate change in the 1970s and then deliberately misleading investors and the public... However, simply because of the extreme views at the top of other agencies, it's possible that Tillerson would be a moderating voice within the Trump cabinet on climate change, assuming he's confirmed... Tillerson moved to have the company acknowledge the central role that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions play in global warming, and advocated for a revenue neutral carbon tax as the most economically elegant solution to putting a price on carbon emissions... Exxon has also, at least publicly, been supportive of the Paris Climate Agreement... 

Still, there are many reasons to question Tillerson’s climate change bona fides... First, some of the climate deniers that his company funded are now involved in the Trump administration’s transition at the EPA, Energy Department and other parts of the bureaucracy... Friends of the Earth U.S. president Erich Pica...[said] "For decades ExxonMobil covered up its knowledge of the link between fossil fuels and climate change, while funding climate denial groups"... [The] company has poured millions into tar sands oil fields in Alberta, which contain some of the dirtiest, most greenhouse gas intensive oil on the planet.

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13 December 2016

Global Witness Opposes Nomination of Exxon CEO as US Secretary of State

Author: Global Witness (UK)

US President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State would pose a grave threat to both US and global security and should be rejected by the Senate, Global Witness said today. Exxon is currently facing allegations that it misled the public over the science behind climate change, it has a long history of questionable deals with oil-rich countries around the world and it has consistently tried to undermine global efforts aimed at reducing corruption in the extractives sector... 

“...On Rex Tillerson’s watch, Exxon is accused of misleading the public about what it knew of the threat from climate change, for which it’s now under investigation by the New York Attorney General...” said Corinna Gilfillan, Head of Global Witness' US office.

Investigations by Global Witness have shown how ExxonMobil or its corporate predecessor Mobil have engaged in questionable transactions with governments of oil-rich countries, including Nigeria, KazakhstanEquatorial GuineaAngola and Chad. Such deals have contributed to entrenching poverty, fuelling instability and violating human rights in some of the world’s most volatile regions...

[The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative] requires member companies to report the payments they make to governments of participating countries; other oil companies, including BP and Shell, have done this in the US, while Exxon has chosen not to... Global Witness is alarmed about the company’s aggressive use of subpoenas against government prosecutors as well as environmental groups that have investigated and criticized Exxon’s record on climate.

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13 December 2016

Leading climate change advocacy groups express “enormous concerns” about Rex Tillerson

Author: Matthew Rozsa, (USA)

On Monday afternoon, as the announcement of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson‘s nomination as secretary of State loomed, representatives of leading climate change advocacy groups held a telebriefing called #ExxonKnew... Kathy Mulvey, the climate accountability campaign manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, [said] “Coupled with the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA administration, there’s a real concern that President-elect Trump is creating a government of, by, and for the oil and gas industry”... [Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace, said] “In nominating Rex Tillerson as potential secretary of State, Trump may have found the only person in the country with more conflicts of interest than himself”... Bill McKibben, of 350.0rg, [said] “...the environmental community is going to be joining with people in the human rights community and others in heavily mobilized opposition to this nomination...” 

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13 December 2016

Under Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil Forged Its Own Path Abroad

Author: Ben Hubbard, Dionne Searcey & Nicholas Casey, New York Times (USA)

...[The] United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s oil industry in 2014 over Moscow’s deadly intervention in Ukraine, leading American foreign policy and the company’s investment goals to diverge. Exxon Mobil now has billions of dollars in deals that will move forward only if the sanctions are lifted...

Exxon Mobil has made lucrative deals with the government of Equatorial Guinea, which arbitrarily detains and tortures critics, disregards elections, and has faced international prosecution for using oil profits to enrich the president’s family.  Tutu Alicante, the director of the watchdog organization EG Justice, said that by doing business in Equatorial Guinea, Exxon Mobil was complicit in reinforcing President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo... “Exxon definitely has enabled a government that once upon a time was very repressive but didn’t have the resources to keep itself in power,” Mr. Alicante said.  As for the selection of Mr. Tillerson as secretary of state, he added, “For just about anyone who cares about transparency in extractive industry, this is a devastating pick.”...

But Alan Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said that when dealing with countries that have records of corruption, the company was careful to follow the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribes to foreign officials to do business...

Exxon Mobil’s offshore facilities have been attacked by militants in the Niger Delta who contend that the nation’s oil wealth overwhelmingly benefits a small circle of Nigerian elites, yet causes broad environmental damage like oil spills.  The company says it takes environmental protections seriously, including in places that have weak regulations or enforcement.

13 December 2016

US: Rights Concerns Over Trump Foreign Policy Nominees

Author: Human Rights Watch (USA)

US President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state, an important opportunity to raise key human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today... As Exxon Mobil CEO, Tillerson oversaw lucrative business operations in partnership with abusive and corrupt oil-rich governments such as Equatorial Guinea and Angola. Under Tillerson, the company has been hostile to US laws requiring greater financial transparency in such countries and stronger human rights standards for companies – laws that the State Department has supported.

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12 December 2016

USA: CEO of ExxonMobil likely nominee for Secretary of State - has history of being a "partner to dictators", says New Yorker magazine

Author: Steve Coll, New Yorker (USA)

Rex Tillerson, From a Corporate Oil Sovereign to the State Department, 11 Dec 2016

The news that President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate Rex Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, as his Secretary of State is astonishing on many levels. As an exercise of public diplomacy, it will certainly confirm the assumption of many people around the world that American power is best understood as a raw, neocolonial exercise in securing resources.  Tillerson figures prominently in “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power,” a book I wrote about the corporation that came out in 2012. He declined my requests to interview him for that project... 

Because oil projects require huge amounts of capital and only pay off fully over decades, Tillerson has favored doing business in countries that offer political stability, even if this stability was achieved through authoritarian rule...

Although ExxonMobil has a stated policy of promoting human rights, and has incorporated the advice of human-rights activists in its corporate-security policies, it nonetheless works as a partner to dictators... It does not interfere in the politics of host countries. The right kinds of dictators can be more predictable and profitable than democracies. ExxonMobil has had more luck making money in Equatorial Guinea, a small, oil-rich West African dictatorship that has been ruled for decades by a single family, than in Alaska, where raucous electoral politics has made it hard for Exxon to nail down stable deal terms... 

ExxonMobil promotes the rule of law around the world—especially that part of the rule of law that favors international investment and makes international contracts enforceable.

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