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  • Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, testifies before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee in Washington, Jan. 20, 2010.

    Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, testifies before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee in Washington, Jan. 20, 2010. | Photo: Reuters

"Senators should have only one real question ... 'Are you kidding me?'" said the Center for International Environmental Law.

Rex Tillerson, former head of ExxonMobil, appeared before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday to answer questions about his nomination for secretary of state under the presidency of Donald Trump, amid criticism targeting the former oil executive over allegations of climate change denial and human rights abuses.

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Tillerson's nomination has been criticized for strong conflicts of interest, as well as his decades of experience working for oil giant ExxonMobil, a company with a long history of funding climate change denialism and under investigation for human rights abuses.

Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, said the country's foreign policy shouldn't be run by someone who will work towards advancing his own business interests.

"In Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump has nominated the one person who faces more profound and intractable conflicts of interest than Trump himself," said Muffett.

"From climate change to human rights to trade policy, Tillerson has spent his entire career advancing the interests of ExxonMobil at the expense of the American people and indeed the world."

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“With so many and so egregious conflicts of interest,” added Muffet, “senators should have only one real question for Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing: ‘Are you kidding me?’"

Antonia Juhasz, an energy analyst, author and investigative reporter, said that as Tillerson appears before the Senate, "Exxon Mobil will be preparing to appear before a jury at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, just blocks away."

"There, the company will face allegations that security forces under its employ engaged in serious human rights abuses, including murder, torture, sexual violence, kidnapping, battery, assault, burning, arbitrary arrest, detention and false imprisonment," said Juhasz. "The complaint specifically names Rex Tillerson."

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