Exxon seeks waiver to resume business in Russia, according to report


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L), while still the CEO of ExxonMobil, sits alongside Rosneft Executive Chairman Igor Sechin during a press conference at the the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2011. (ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

Exxon Mobil has applied to the U.S. Treasury for a waiver from sanctions against Russia, to resume a landmark oil and gas drilling venture with Russian firm Rosneft, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Sanctions blocking the Rosneft deal from moving ahead were issued by former President Barack Obama in response to Russian troops involvement in a conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Now Exxon is hoping the Trump administration will change course, allowing them to resume a project that would have allowed them access to what are believed to be vast oil and gas deposits underneath the waters of the Russian Arctic and the Black Sea, as well as Siberia.

Exxon had already applied for a waiver to operate in the Black Sea in 2015, but the request was rejected by the Obama administration, according to the Wall Street Journal’s account, which was based  unnamed sources.

An Exxon spokesman declined to comment Thursday, and the Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The application comes as the Trump administration comes under increasing scrutiny over its ties to Russia, after FBI Director James Comey told Congress last month agents were investigating Russian hacking allegedly aimed at influencing the presidential election and whether members of Trump’s campaign team might have been in contact with the perpetrators.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon who signed the deal with Rosneft, would typically have to sign off on such a waiver. But during his confirmation hearing before the Senate earlier this year, Tillerson said he would recuse himself from any decisions involving his former company for two years.

Exxon has already been granted waivers to operate in Russia, but those licenses, issued in 2015 and last year by the Treasury Department, were restricted to “limited administrative actions,” according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by Exxon.