Just a few days after the Weather Channel published a damning, in-depth report documenting how natural gas drilling is wreaking havoc on Texas' air quality, a group of wealthy property owners outside Dallas are dealing with another dark side of the energy boom: a really ugly water tower.
Residents of Bartonville are concerned about the tower for a number of reasons and are fighting the project in court. One issue, they say in the lawsuit, is that the tower "will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracking shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards."
And, as the Wall Street Journal just uncovered, one of those angry homeowners trying to stop the tower and its fracking-related business is none other than Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson. The lawsuit already has a winner, and that winner is irony.
Exxon and its subsidiary XTO make loads of money from natural gas production, and Tillerson doesn't like it when others complain about the potentially negative consequences. He's bitched over the years that fracking regulations have hindered natural gas production so much that the government has "has become an obstacle to getting anything done." Except that Exxon is reportedly the largest producer of natural gas in the country, so Tillerson somehow found a way to get stuff done.
About a year and a half after he complained about the federal government, XTO was hit with a lawsuit from the feds accusing the company of polluting drinking water in Pennsylvania, also with fracking fluid, that same stuff the homeowners appear to be concerned about. XTO settled the case for $20 million.
To be fair, the lawsuit Tillerson is involved in doesn't concern itself too much with the larger implications of natural gas drilling. Mostly, the plaintiffs just want to talk about the water tower and how it's too big and ugly to fit in attractive Bartonville. "This monstrosity will mock the purpose of the Bartonville zoning ordinance," the lawsuit charges, sounding serious. The complaint adds that the tower's location "is abnormal and out of place for the surroundings."
The tower is actually just 160 feet tall, but "both men and nature are inadequate to lessen the adverse impact" of that 160 feet.
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Meanwhile, that recent Weather Channel report found that Texas is suffering "a 100 percent statewide increase in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production since 2009," something is also unlikely to be lessened by either man or nature.
Here is the water tower lawsuit: