Maybe we should just file this one from the continuing fracking saga under the “just do as I say, not as I do” file.
But it’s still pretty delicious: According to various news reports, including the Wall Street Journal, Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s chairman and CEO, is part of a lawsuit seeking to block construction of a 160-foot water tower adjacent to his and his wife’s Bartonville, Texas home. The tower will supply water to a nearby hydraulic fracturing site.
Tillerson and his neighbors contend the tower is illegal and will create "a noise nuisance and traffic hazards," in part because it will supply water that is needed for the fracking project. Fracking, which requires heavy trucks to haul and pump massive amounts of water, unlocks oil and gas from dense rock. It is widely cited as at least a mid-term answer to U.S. energy output needs, and one that’s supposedly less environmentally harsh than oil drilling and extraction.
Fracking also happens to be a core part of ExxonMobil’s core business these days.
But apparently the joys and benefits of fracking become another story entirely when the project is in your backyard or down the street: A story about property values, noise and traffic, even when you are the CEO of a company that is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S.
After all, Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed by the tower. Though his name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said in the WSJ article that Tillerson’s concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically. Maybe there’s a distinction there somewhere.
As the ExxonMobil CEO, Tillerson has criticized fracking opponents and proponents of better fracking regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”
In fracking project areas, less wealthy residents have protested fracking developments that have much more impact than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting oil spills not only hit property values, but also have leveled homes and caused long-term environmental damage.
The Bartonville water tower has been controversial and the subject of permit disputes for several years. Last November, Tillerson addressed the town’s council, telling officials that he and his wife, Renda, settled in Bartonville to enjoy a rural lifestyle and invested millions in their property after satisfying themselves that nothing would be built above their tree line, according to the council's audio recording of the meeting.
Allowing the tower in defiance of town ordinances could open the door to runaway development and might prompt him to leave town, he said. "I cannot stay in a place," he said, "where I do not know who to count on and who not to count on."
That sounds a little threatening, but why should we count on intellectual honesty from ExxonMobil’s head guy–isn’t consistency the hobgoblin of little minds?
Image: Rex Tillerson (Exxon Mobil) by energyPICs via Flickr cc