Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
Business | By Sandy Mccarthy

Exxon seeks waiver from US sanctions on Russia

Exxon seeks waiver from US sanctions on Russia

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday needled Exxon Mobile Corp. over the oil giant's potential joint venture with a company owned by Russia's government.

Exxon Mobil Corp. applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver from sanctions on Russian Federation in an effort to restart its joint venture with state oil company PAO Rosneft, according to the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon and Bradley Olson.

Asked about the waiver application, Alan Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said, "We don't comment on ongoing issues".

He is reportedly recusing himself from matters involving Exxon for two years, and the Journal added that it's unclear whether the request to the Treasury Department came before or after Tillerson joined the administration.

CNBC has reached out to Exxon and the Treasury Department for comment on the Journal's report. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ExxonMobil's former chief executive. There has also been pressure from Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress and European allies anxious over any sign that the president might prematurely ease sanctions imposed on Russian Federation.

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Exxon and Rosneft in 2012 had unveiled an offshore exploration partnership with plans to invest as much as $500 billion in developing Russia's vast energy reserves in the Arctic and Black seas.

As Exxon CEO, Tillerson opposed the sanctions, telling shareholders in 2014 that sanctions were usually ineffective and caused "very broad collateral damage". The Russia sanctions have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

Exxon's ambitions could be complicated, however, by concern over what USA intelligence agencies have concluded were Russian cyberattacks to interfere with the US presidential election a year ago.

Exxon's critics said that if the Trump administration approved Exxon's request, which was reported first by The Wall Street Journal, then Congress should block it on environmental and national-interest grounds.

The application asks to be exempted from US sanctions against Russian Federation so the companies can drill in various banned locations in the Black Sea.

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