Tillerson has recused himself from Keystone pipeline issues

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WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recused himself from issues related to TransCanada Corp's application for a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department said in a letter on Thursday to the environmental group Greenpeace.

"He has not worked on that matter at the Department of State, and will play no role in the deliberations or ultimate resolution of TransCanada's application," said the letter from Katherine McManus, the State Department's deputy legal adviser.

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Keystone XL Pipeline project
A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into a trench during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling (2nd L) announces the new Energy East Pipeline during a news conference in Calgary, Alberta, August 1, 2013. TransCanada Corp on Thursday said it would move ahead with a $12 billion oil pipeline to ship Western Canada's oil sands crude to refiners on its east coast and beyond, scaling up the project as its U.S.-bound Keystone XL line stalls in Washington. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo
Shayne Walker, a weld inspector, fills out paperwork during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS - SEPT12: The Valero refinery works glow in the dusk light in Port Arthur, Texas. The state of Texas has placed a historical plaque noting that this area is near where the oil boom started in 1901. Port Arthur, Texas is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
BUTTE, NEBRASKA - JULY 04: The Keystone XL pipeline at one point was going to run through the sensitive Sand Hills areas of Nebraska west of Butte, Nebraska. The pipeline has been rerouted and now skirts the Sand Hills, but still goes under the Niobrara River area pictured here.(Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
VALENTINE, NEBRASKA - JULY 04: The Keystone XL pipeline at one point was going to run through the sensitive Sand Hills areas of Nebraska in the vicinity of Valentine, Nebraska. The pipeline has been rerouted to the east and now avoids the sensitive the Sand Hills, so it will not pass through this area at the Minnechaduza Creek. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
North Dakota rancher Bob Banderet stands in front of the Keystone pumping station that dumped 500-barrels of tar sands crude on the North Dakota prairie outside of the small town of Cogswell. Bandaret witnessed the spill from his nearby farmhouse and alerted authorities, even before TransCanada was aware of the break. From Oil and Water: Following the route of the Keystone XL pipeline through the USA. (Photo by Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS - SEPT12: The Valero refinery looms on the horizon in Port Arthur Texas. Port Arthur, Texas is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS - SEPT12: Maintenance work is constant at the Valero refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur, Texas is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Equipment sits near a section of pipeline during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Atoka, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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McManus' letter came after Greenpeace wrote to officials at the State Department and the Office of Government Ethics on Wednesday, urging Tillerson recuse himself from any decisions on the multibillion-dollar pipeline, given his former role as chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp..

Greenpeace argued in its letter that Exxon Mobil would "directly and predictably" benefit from the approval of Keystone XL because the firm has investments in Canadian oil sands.

Tillerson recused himself from the matter in early February, McManus wrote.

TransCanada tried for more than five years to build the 1,179-mile (1,897-km) pipeline, until President Barack Obama rejected it in 2015.

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Rex Tillerson through his career
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Rex Tillerson through his career

Exxon Mobil Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson speaks at a news conference following the Exxon Mobil annual shareholders meeting in Dallas, Texas May 30, 2007. Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday that the construction of the Mackenzie pipeline project in Canada was not viable at current cost levels.

(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson look on at a signing ceremony in the Black Sea resort of Sochi August 30, 2011. Exxon and Russia's Rosneft signed a deal on Tuesday to develop oil and gas reserves in the Russian Arctic, opening up one of the last unconquered drilling frontiers to the global industry No.1.

(REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool)

Executives from six major oil companies are sworn in to testify at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the "Consolidation in the Oil and Gas Industry: Raising Prices?" on Capitol Hill in Washington March 14, 2006. The executives are (L-R) Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, David O'Reilly, Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp., Bill Klesse, CEO of Valero Energy Corp., John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company and Ross Pillari, President and CEO of BP America Inc.

(Jason Reed / Reuters)

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo)

Chairman, President and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex Tillerson watches a tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club course in Pebble Beach, California, February 6, 2014.

(REUTERS/Michael Fiala)

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil; John Watson, chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp.; James Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Co.; and Lamar McKay, president and chairman of BP America Inc.; are sworn in during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on their safety practices as oil continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig - operated by BP - exploded last month.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo)

WASHINGTON, DC - May 12: James Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; and Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp.; during the Senate Finance hearing on oil and gas tax incentives.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex W. Tillerson and Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg attends the United Nations Foundation's global leadership dinner at The Pierre Hotel on November 8, 2011 in New York City.

(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., left, speaks with Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates Inc., during the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. CERAWeek 2015, in its 34th year, will provide new insights and critically-important dialogue with decision-makers in the oil and gas, electric power, coal, renewables, and nuclear sectors from around the world.

(Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Renda St. Clair and Rex Tillerson attend the reopening celebration at Ford's Theatre on February 11, 2009 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Abby Brack/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, listens during a meeting at the Department of the Interior September 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar hosted Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Gulf Oil Spill National Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen (Ret.), representatives from the private sector and others to discus strengthening the containment abilities to deep water oil and gas well blowouts like the recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

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TransCanada resubmitted its application for the Keystone project in January, after Obama's White House successor, Donald Trump, signed an order smoothing its path.

The line is designed to link existing pipeline networks in Canada and the United States to bring crude from Alberta and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois en route to the Gulf of Mexico.

Exxon has a majority stake in Imperial Oil, a Calgary, -Alberta-based company that operates the Kearl oil sands project in northern Alberta.

"Exxon Mobil could benefit from the approval of the pipeline if it has specific contracts or agreements with TransCanada either to transport their Canadian tar sands production, or to receive such shipments at their U.S. refineries," Greenpeace wrote in its letter on Wednesday.

Tillerson wrote in a January letter to McManus that for one year after his resignation from Exxon Mobil, he "will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know that Exxon Mobil is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate."

He also wrote that "on a case-by-case basis," he would recuse himself "from participation in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I determine that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would question my impartiality in the matter, unless I am first authorized to participate."

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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