Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recused himself from making any decisions about the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The State Department confirmed Tillerson’s decision in a letter to Greenpeace. It read, in part, “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.”
The Keystone XL pipeline was designed by TransCanada to bring oil from Canada to the U.S. Since it crosses an international border, the company needs a presidential permit to move forward with the project.
Former President Barack Obama refused to grant that permit back in 2015. But earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an order that reopened the application process.
TransCanada has reapplied for that presidential permit since then, and it’s now up to the State Department to approve or deny it.
But Greenpeace and other critics didn’t want Tillerson to have anything to do with that decision.
Tillerson used to be the CEO of Exxon Mobil. If the pipeline is built, it would raise the value of crude oil from Canada’s tar sands in Alberta. Exxon Mobil has investments there, and they stand to make some serious cash if the project goes through.
Tillerson gave himself 90 days after he was confirmed as secretary of state to unload his Exxon Mobil stock. So, in theory, he could reap the benefits that an approval would have on the company’s shares.
Tillerson had previously said he would separate himself from any decisions that might affect his former company for one year after taking office.