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ExxonMobil CEO Supports Halt in Offshore Leasing

Friday, 7 May 2010 | 5:57 PM ET
Coast Guard Attempts Burning Off Oil Leaking From Sunken Rig
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Coast Guard Attempts Burning Off Oil Leaking From Sunken Rig

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson says President Barack Obama made the right call in putting a moratorium on new Gulf of Mexico oil leasing in the wake of the BP disaster.

Tillerson told CNBC in an exclusive interview, "I think that's a prudent step." (Watch his comments here).

He says ExxonMobil has offered equipment, vessels, engineers and scientists to help BP during the crisis.

Said Tillerson, "This is a rare and unique incident and it's one that obviously all of us want to understand so that if there are procedural changes or things that we need to be doing different, we want to undertake those."

The April 20 accident killed 11 workers and left a growing slick of crude in the Gulf. It has paralyzed the Gulf coast fishing industry and endangered wildlife along the shore.

Crews have capped one leaking well and are trying to stop the leaks on two others, using a variety of procedures and devices, including a so-called containment dome.

Tillerson says President Obama's posture on the tragedy is appropriate. "Let's deal with the incident, let's have an investigation, and then let's look at the industry's practices and standards and learn from this incident and take the steps to prevent this from happening in the future again," he said.

Exxon dealt with a similar environmental crisis in 1989, when the Valdez tanker spilled nearly 11 million gallons (250,000 barrels) of oil into Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska.

Tillerson says he has talked with BP CEO Tony Hayward about the Gulf disaster, but only to offer assistance, not specific advice.

"I have spoken to him, but only about the response and, and—our conversations were around how we could help", said Tillerson.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rex Tillerson supported a halt to offshore drilling.

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Ellen Egeth contributed to this story. You can see more of Tillerson's interview and in-depth coverage of ExxonMobil's strategy for growth in the energy sector on CNBC all day Monday, as part of our special series 'American Titans."

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