October 30, 2017
Thomas Penney

ExxonMobil, whose former CEO is current US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, recently donated $30,000 toward the completion of the East Coast Trail. This brings their total contributions up to $225,000 over the past fifteen years, making them one of the most charitable financial contributors to the project. The East Coast Trail is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the province. National Geographic named it one of the best adventure destinations in 2012.

That ExxonMobil is one of the biggest contributors to the project may come as a surprise to some. Many may recall the controversy surrounding the company, in relation to their stance on climate change. For decades, beginning in the 1970s, ExxonMobil was researching the effects of fossil fuels on the environment, both through internal studies and university collaborations. An investigation several years ago revealed that ExxonMobil had known about the significant risks to the environment, and subsequently spent millions of dollars promoting misinformation and blocking policy changes through their lobbying efforts.

Ironically, the initial research they were trying to defeat was their own. In 1977, senior scientist for ExxonMobil James Black, told the company, “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.” His full report to the company can be found here.

Rex Tillerson was quoted in 2013 as saying, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” at the company’s annual general meeting. Tillerson backed off outright climate change denial as the head of ExxonMobil when he took over in 2006 but maintained that measures to cut global warming would make it more difficult to lift people from poverty.

In that same 2013 meeting, shareholders voted 3-1 against acting to lower the company’s emissions. As recently as 2016, ExxonMobil had accused the Rockefeller family, who had exposed much of the company’s work as climate change deniers, of masterminding a conspiracy against the company.

ExxonMobil is the company behind the Hibernia Project in Newfoundland, a major source of employment in the province, and as the CBC reported in January of last year, “a quiet workhouse” for the company.

ExxonMobil has long been involved in oil and gas in Newfoundland and Labrador. Their work with the East Coast Trail has allowed the 300 KM walking trail to expand and thrive over the last fifteen years. The trail travels through more than 30 communities and is a staple for anyone looking to explore the province.

Photo by BhinX