Exxon seeks sanctions waiver so it can drill in Russian deal

Posted: April 20, 2017 at 3:59 a.m.
Updated: April 20, 2017 at 3:59 a.m.

HOUSTON -- Exxon Mobil is pursuing a waiver from Treasury Department sanctions on Russia so it may drill in the Black Sea in a venture with the Russian state oil company Rosneft, a former State Department official said Wednesday. An oil industry official confirmed the account.

The waiver application was made under former President Barack Obama's administration, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity, and the company has not dropped the proposal.

The proposal is now before President Donald Trump's administration at a delicate time in Russian-U.S. relations, with rising tensions over the war in Syria and a looming congressional inquiry into reports of Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The appeal did not come up during Senate confirmation hearings of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was Exxon Mobil's chief executive before his appointment by Trump and was known to have a strong working relationship with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. At the time, Tillerson and other company officials said they had not lobbied against the sanctions, which were imposed on Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine.

But Tillerson and company officials did note that Exxon Mobil had received a waiver to complete drilling an exploration well in Russia's Arctic waters. Company officials also disclosed that they had urged Obama administration officials to make U.S. sanctions consistent with European Union sanctions, which gave greater latitude to European companies to continue taking part in some Russian projects.

The Exxon Mobil waiver request for the Black Sea was first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Asked about the waiver application, Alan Jeffers, an Exxon Mobil spokesman, said, "We don't comment on ongoing issues." A Treasury Department representative said the department would not comment on individual licenses or waiver requests.

A Section on 04/20/2017