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Trump nominee Rex Tillerson to face questioning over fossil fuel industry's climate change cover-up

In just a few days, Secretary of State-designate and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is scheduled to be deposed in a lawsuit, which will enable him to be questioned on allegations that his company knew about its contribution to climate change for decades, but covered it up: “The thing about this guy, is that he […]

By Tommy Christopher - January 10, 2017
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Rex Tillerson

In just a few days, Secretary of State-designate and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is scheduled to be deposed in a lawsuit, which will enable him to be questioned on allegations that his company knew about its contribution to climate change for decades, but covered it up:

“The thing about this guy, is that he has been in cahoots with the fossil industry, and now he’s been nominated to be secretary of state. I’d like to ask him why he thinks he should be secretary of state.”

So spoke Kiran Oommen, one of 21 youngsters who are set to question under oath Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee to be America’s top diplomat.

Lawyers for the young people, who are suing the US federal government to try and force it to take action against climate change, want Mr Tillerson to reveal just what he and, the industry he worked for, knew about climate change and the impact of fossil fuels in warming the planet. The lawsuit also targets energy industry groups – the American Petroleum Institute (API), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) – who the youngsters claim worked to stop the government from taking action.

If he does not manage to avoid this deposition, Tillerson will be questioned not only about his role in undermining climate science as Exxon Mobil CEO, but also his involvement with the fossil fuel-backed Global Climate Coalition and any role he had in the George W. Bush administration’s environmental decisions.

Unless Democrats succeed in scoring another delay (which they have requested), Tillerson will also face a confirmation hearing this week, which would provide Democrats with an opportunity to grill him in advance of his deposition.

They will also have the opportunity to ask Tillerson about recent reports that his company did business with Iran through a subsidiary while he was CEO, information which was unearthed by the Democratic organization American Bridge (emphasis mine):

The sales were conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by Infineum, in which ExxonMobil owned a 50% share, according to SEC documents unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic research group.

ExxonMobil told USA TODAY the transactions were legal because Infineum, a joint venture with Shell Corporation, was based in Europe and the transactions did not involve any U.S. employees.

The filings, from 2006, show that the company had $53.2 million in sales to Iran, $600,000 in sales to Sudan and $1.1 million in sales to Syria during those three years.

He became a senior vice president at ExxonMobil in August 2001, president and director in March 2004 and chairman and chief executive on Jan. 1, 2006.

The SEC letter questioned ExxonMobil’s failure to disclose to shareholders that it had transactions with three state sponsors of terrorism.

Tillerson’s deep ties with Russia and lucrative conflicts of interest may be enough to peel off some Republicans and scuttle his nomination, but his hearing will also be an invaluable chance to question him under oath about these other disturbing issues as well.

If their grilling of Jeff Sessions is any indication, Democrats will not waste that opportunity.


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