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By Andrew Follett
Environmentalists were in panic mode Wednesday as the Senate confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
Environmentalists opposed Tillerson before and after his nomination, citing his career in oil and natural gas and Russian business ties. It may be unsurprising then that every major environmental group put out a statement denouncing Tillerson within minutes of his confirmation.
“[T]hey’re letting Trump hand the State department over to the oil and gas industry,” Naomi Ages, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, said in a press statement. “Tillerson was complicit in Exxon’s decades-long denial of climate science, and he used his company’s deep pockets to silence and intimidate anyone who was critical of its disregard for the public good.”
“Welcome to the United States of Exxon, where Big Oil no longer has to buy off the government because it now actually is the government,” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “Trump and Tillerson are cut from the same cloth — driven by greed and devoid of a moral compass. Only a morally bankrupt president would want his secretary of state to be a man who made his career and his many millions off of vast human suffering, environmental destruction, and climate denial.”
The Senate approved Tillerson in a 56-43 vote Wednesday. Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted to confirm Tillerson. Maine Sen. Angus King, an Independent, also voted to confirm Tillerson.
Friends of the Earth called on all “citizens of the world” to resit Tillerson and Trump as much as possible, but other environmentalists were a bit more tongue-and-cheek about the new Secretary of State.
“I, for one, welcome our new fossil fuel overlords,” Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, said in an emailed statement. “Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State makes it perfectly obvious who the rest of the world, and all of us, are dealing with. America appears clearly today on the world stage as a country that is sadly of, by, and for the oil industry.”
Some green groups were just furious however, but not surprised about the confirmation.
“It’s unconscionable that the Senate confirmed an oil executive to be America’s ambassador to the world,” Michael Brune, the executive director of The Sierra Club, said in a press statement. “And yet, that’s exactly what they have done. Perhaps it’s no surprise, since so many of those voting in favor of Rex Tillerson have benefitted from Exxon’s political contributions over the years.”
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