Rex Tillerson recuses himself from Keystone pipeline decision

Rex Tillerson testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing to become U.S. Secretary of State on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. Jan.11, 2017.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recused himself from TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department says.

Environmental group Greenpeace has called for Tillerson, former CEO of oil giant Exxon Mobil, to take that step. 

The pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada to the U.S., was halted by then-President Barack Obama in 2015. He argued it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy.

In one of his first decisions as president, President Trump invited TransCanada, the company behind to project, to resubmit its application to construct and operate the pipeline. 

Mr. Trump directed the State Department to make a decision within 60 days of receiving TransCanada’s application.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that Tillerson decided in early February to recuse himself from TransCanada’s application. Tillerson has not been involved in the process at the State Department and will “play no role in the deliberations or ultimate resolution” of the application, Toner said.

The $8 billion pipeline project was designed to bring 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. Existing lines would then move the oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast.