Exxon CEO Joins Hydraulic Fracturing Lawsuit, But Not Why You Think

rex tillerson hydraulic fracturing lawsuit

Apparently everything really is bigger in Texas, even the hypocrites: The head of the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S. is suing to keep hydraulic fracturing (fracking) out of his own backyard.

When we imagine anti-hydraulic fracturing activists, a well-suited executive from the fossil fuel industry almost never enters the picture. That’s why many are reeling after the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, had joined his neighbors in a lawsuit designed to halt nearby hydraulic fracturing operations.

Before we get all excited and start pointing fingers, it’s important to examine the details. Tillerson’s move isn’t motivated by fears of what hydraulic fracturing will do to the air, water, and soil, as some reports have implied. It’s aimed instead at blocking construction of a water tower that’s necessary for fracking operations to continue (hydraulic fracturing requires a huge amount of water). Viewed in this light, Tillerson’s move is more of a strange showing of solidarity between residents of what I can only imagine is a very well-manicured neighborhood in Bartonville, Texas.

Exxon Tillerson hydraulic fracturing

As the Wall Street Journal reports: “[Tillerson] and his neighbors had filed suit to block the tower, saying it is illegal and would create ‘a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,’ in part because it would provide water for use in hydraulic fracturing.”

“Tillerson’s attorney told the Journal he had no concerns about fracking-related traffic and rather was simply opposed to a water tower hovering over the 83-acre horse ranch he and wife Renda, a former competitive barrel jumper, share,” explains The Dallas Morning News.

So, a rich guy is more concerned about preserving his view than protecting his water supply–so what? Well for one thing it’s a direct contradiction of rhetoric the fossil fuel industry has forced down the throat of communities from Pennsylvania to California: hydraulic fracturing is harmless, non-disruptive and healthy for everyone.

Unless you’re a wealthy oil baron with lots of clout in your small Texas town. Then it becomes unsightly, a nuisance, and a threat to property values. Whether or not Tillerson says it out loud or not, at the very least hydraulic fracturing disturbs the peace–of the environment, wildlife, and anyone else who happens to be living nearby. No one should be forced to acquiesce these things to the fossil fuel industry just because there’s profit to be made. Whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom or the CEO of ExxonMobil.

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Images: Wikimedia Commons, rifuture