Department of State

Here's a Review of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson's Secretary of State Hearing So Far

Rex Tillerson

Long-time ExxonMobil employee and former CEO Rex Tillerson's U.S. Secretary of State confirmation hearing has begun. As expected, it has created waves, covering topics from climate change, foreign policy in Russia and Ukraine, the Islamic State (ISIS), and far beyond. 

His U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing has faced protests both on the outside and on the inside, including several hearing interruptions, with protestors removed from the room by the U.S. Capitol Police. Tillerson's cozy ties to Russia have come under question by senators on both sides of the aisle and Democrats have peppered him with questions about his personal views, as well as Exxon's views, on climate change.

A theme has developed: Tillerson has offered in-depth answers on foreign policy generally speaking, but punted for the most part on questions pertaining to his time heading up the world's largest oil and gas company.

Exxon, Qatar Petroleum Get OK to Export U.S. Fracked Gas Amidst Tangled Ties to Russia, ISIS

Saturday Night Live skit showing parody of Tillerson, Putin, and Trump

Just days before Christmas, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave ExxonMobil a gift: a permit to export natural gas from its Golden Pass LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility located in Sabine Pass, Texas. 

Dubbed Golden Pass Products, the expansion of this LNG facility to export gas is a joint venture between Exxon (30 percent stake) and Qatar Petroleum (70 percent stake), the state-owned oil company. Golden Pass LNG is now the fourth LNG export facility, and third situated along the Gulf of Mexico, approved under the Obama administration.

This facility will continue to open up the global market to U.S. natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)

The permit for Golden Pass comes shortly after Exxon's CEO, Rex Tillerson, was named Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of State and will likely face a tough Senate confirmation hearing in January, mainly due to his close ties to Russia.

As Trump Names Exxon CEO Tillerson Secretary of State, Waterkeeper Alliance Asks EPA to Tell Company "You're Fired!"

The Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, submitted a 54-page petition with 358 footnotes and 448 pages containing 43 exhibits to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for an end of all of its federal contracts with ExxonMobil. 

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was recently named U.S. Secretary of State by President-Elect Donald Trump and will likely face a contentious congressional nomination hearing due to his own and his company's ties to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The petition centers around what Exxon knew for decades about climate change, which it studied closely in-house, while funding climate change denial efforts for decades, while also discussing the rest of its environmental track-record. 

Federal Court Gives Blessing to Covertly Approved Enbridge Cross-Border Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion

A federal court has ruled that the Enbridge Alberta Clipper (Line 67) cross-border tar sands pipeline expansion project, permitted covertly and behind closed doors by the Obama Administration, got its greenlight in a legal manner. 

The ruling — made by Michael J. Davis, a President Bill Clinton-appointee — comes just over a year after several environmental groups brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for what they said was a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA calls for robust public hearings and public commenting periods for any major proposed energy infrastructure projects, referred to by some as the “Magna Carta of environmental law.”

TransCanada's Next Move After Keystone XL: Flood Mexico with Fracked Gas with State Department Help

TransCanada, the owner of the recently-nixed northern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, has won a bid from Mexico's government to build a 155-mile pipeline carrying gas from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the United States to Mexico's electricity grid. 

The company has benefited from Mexico's energy sector privatization promoted by the U.S. State Department, the same agency that denied a permit to the U.S.-Canada border-crossing Keystone XL. TransCanada said in a press release that construction on the $500 million line will begin in 2016 and it will be called the Tuxpan-Tula Pipeline. 

Fracker Aubrey McClendon Signs Deal in Mexico with Firm Led by Former Mexican President

Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) giant Chesapeake Energy and current CEO of American Energy Partners (AEP), has signed a joint venture with a private equity firm led* by former Mexico president Vicente Fox.* 

In a joint press release, AEP and EIM (Energy and Infrastructure Mexico) Capital announced a “long-term, landmark partnership to explore the vast exploration and development opportunities offered by Mexico's abundant oil and gas energy resources.” The deal serves as another case study of U.S.-based companies cashing in on the Mexico energy sector privatization policy the U.S. State Department helped make possible under both the Obama Administration and the Bush Administration.

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton State Department Emails, Mexico Energy Reform and the Revolving Door

Emails released on July 31 by the U.S. State Department reveal more about the origins of energy reform efforts in Mexico. The State Department released them as part of the once-a-month rolling release schedule for emails generated by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now a Democratic presidential candidate.

Originally stored on a private server, with Clinton and her closest advisors using the server and private accounts, the emails confirm Clinton's State Department helped to break state-owned company Pemex's (Petroleos Mexicanos) oil and gas industry monopoly in Mexico, opening up the country to international oil and gas companies. And two of the Coordinators helping to make it happen, both of whom worked for Clinton, now work in the private sector and stand to gain financially from the energy reforms they helped create.

The appearance of the emails also offers a chance to tell the deeper story of the role the Clinton-led State Department and other powerful actors played in opening up Mexico for international business in the oil and gas sphere. That story begins with a trio.

Emails: Enbridge Attorney, Lobbyist Wrote Provisions into Wisconsin Budget for "Keystone XL Clone" Pipeline Leg

Emails reveal that an attorney and lobbyist for Canadian pipeline company giant Enbridge helped draft the controversial provision placed into the 2015 Wisconsin Budget set to fast-track expansion of the company's Line 61 pipeline. 

The emails, published by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau and first covered by Wisconsin Public Radio, emerge just months after DeSmog revealed emails showing Enbridge's attorney for its border-crossing Alberta Clipper expansion project proposal, which connects to Line 61 in Superior, Wisconsin, doing much the same to curry favor with the U.S. Department of State to fast-track permitting for that project.  

Together, Alberta Clipper (also called Line 67) and Line 61 are two parts of the four that make up the broader “Keystone XL Clone” pipeline system. That system carries tar sands bitumen extracted in Alberta down to Gulf coast refineries and the global export market.

Global Shale Fail: Oil Majors Leaving Fracking Fields Across Europe, Asia

With some analysts predicting the global price of oil to see another drop, many oil majors have deployed their parachutes and jumped from the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) projects rapidly nose-diving across the world.

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, the unconvetional shale oil and gas boom is still predominantly U.S.-centric, likely to remain so for years to come.

“Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have packed up nearly all of their hydraulic fracturing wildcatting in Europe, Russia and China,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.

“Chevron halted its last European fracking operations in February when it pulled out of Romania. Shell said it is cutting world-wide shale spending by 30% in places including Turkey, Ukraine and Argentina. Exxon has pulled out of Poland and Hungary, and its German fracking operations are on hold.” 

Though the fracking boom has taken off in the U.S. like no other place on Earth, the U.S. actually possesses less than 10 percent of the world’s estimated shale reserves, according to The Journal.

Despite this resource allotment discrepency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently revealed that only four countries in the world have produced fracked oil or gas at a commercial-scale: the United States, Canada, China and Argentina.

Global Shale Fail
Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

New Obama State Dept Top Energy Diplomat Amos Hochstein A Former Marathon Oil Lobbyist

The U.S. State Department recently announced that Amos Hochstein, currently the special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, will take over as the State Department's top international energy diplomat.

Hochstein will likely serve as a key point man for the U.S. in its negotiations to cut a climate change deal as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), both at the ongoing COP20 summit in Lima, Peru and next year's summit in Paris, France. Some conclude the Lima and Paris negotiations are a “last chance” to do something meaningful on climate change.

But before getting a job at the State Department, where Hochstein has worked since 2011, he worked as a lobbyist for the firm Cassidy & Associates. Cassidy's current lobbying client portfolio consists of several fossil fuel industry players, including Noble Energy, Powder River Energy and Transwest Express. 

Back when Hochstein worked for Cassidy, one of his clients was Marathon Oil, which he lobbied for in quarter two and quarter three of 2008, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

Hochstein earned his firm $20,000 each quarter lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on behalf of Marathon. 


Image Credit: Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

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