‘Boo-Hoo’ Award for Exxon Mobil CEO
Property Rights Emerge as Growing Issue;
Is Tillerson a Property Rights ‘Illiterate’?
A recent Wyoming Supreme Court decision noted the shale gas ‘gold rush’ has triggered the law of unintended consequences for energy industry executives and government regulators where property rights are concerned.1
More property owners and communities have decided they do not want to be dictated to by energy executives who do not have drilling rigs, pipelines, compressors or underground natural gas storage reservoirs in their own backyard.
As such energy industry operations proliferate across the US and Canada, more property owners, communities and organizations are challenging the adverse effects on, first, the environment and now, property rights.
The most recent example of the energy industry’s new-age NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson who filed suit, along with ten others, to stop construction on a water tower near his property in Bartonville, Texas, about 30 miles outside of Dallas.2
Water Sold for ‘Fracing’?
Tillerson and his rich neighbors (with million dollar property values) sued the Bartonville Water Supply Corporation (BWSC) for, among other fears, that “BWSC will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards.” [p. 17 of Armey et al. v. Bartonville Water Supply Corp. et al. Number 2012-30982-211, Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Petition, in the District Court of Denton County, Texas, March 15, 2013]
Tillerson and his attorney say the suit is about a water tower not fracking. While they pedal backward as fast as they can, this lawsuit is a declaration of property rights by the Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil which describes itself as “the largest publicly traded … oil and gas company” in the world.
In this court document, they repeatedly assert the right to enjoy their property. In a staggering statement of hypocritical self-absorption, the lawsuit declares (emphasis added):
“Each of the homeowners built or purchased their homes in Bartonville to live in an upscale community free of industrial properties, tall buildings, and other structures that might devalue their properties and adversely impact the rural lifestyle they sought to enjoy.” [p. 5 of Armey et al. v. Bartonville Water Supply Corp. et al. Number 2012-30982-211, Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Petition, in the District Court of Denton County, Texas, March 15, 2013]
Tell that to “fellow” property owners who live with fracked wells 300 feet from their door or whose property sits on top of underground natural gas storage reservoirs. Do they not have the same rights as the Tillersons?
Right to Enjoy THEIR Property
The rich folks’ lawsuit is the best legal read currently available, a testament to the double standard of the new NIMBYs of the energy industry. It is rife with melodramatic whining over their property rights (emphasis added):
- The lawsuit bleats about “the emotional harm they have sustained from the deprivation of the enjoyment of their property because of fear, apprehension, offense, loss of peace of mind, visual blight or other similar acts or circumstances.” [pp. 11-12 of Armey et al. v. Bartonville Water Supply Corp. et al. Number 2012-30982-211, Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Petition, in the District Court of Denton County, Texas, March 15, 2013]
- “The construction of the water tower will create a constant and unbearable nuisance to those that [sic] live next to it. A water tower will have lights on at all hours of the night, traffic to and from the tower at unknown and unreasonable hours, noise from mechanical and electrical equipment needed to maintain and, operate the water tower, and creates and [sic] unsafe and attractive nuisance to the children of the area.” [p. 17 of Armey et al. v. Bartonville Water Supply Corp. et al. Number 2012-30982-211, Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Petition, in the District Court of Denton County, Texas, March 15, 2013]
So here we have the leader of the largest oil and gas company in the world, whose very name is Latin for “king,” a person of “ordinary sensibilities” (according to the lawsuit). He and his ten neighbors stand before the world suffering multiple symptoms:
- emotional harm
- irreparable harm to property value
- “fear, apprehension, offense, loss of peace of mind, visual blight” and more.
Rex: Property Rights ‘Illiterate’
CEO Rex “Not-In-My-Backyard” Tillerson is on record calling the public “illiterate” in science, math and engineering; and what the energy industry does “is a mystery to them and they find it scary.”3
Au contraire, NIMBY Rex. No mystery here. The folks whose property rights your company and industry trample with the collusion of government (as in “cartel”) understand it much better than you do.
Is it possible, Rex, you and your wealthy, powerful friends are illiterate on the issue of property rights? Now that you find the enjoyment of your property threatened, it’s “scary?”
When your moment of property rights literacy arrived, you failed.
Fellow property owners who have been there, done that – thanks to you – call it poetic justice.
Links & Resources
1Wyoming Supreme Court Decision – Among other points, the court noted (emphasis added):
“Impetus for the extensive changes came from increased use of eminent domain proceedings by public utilities and energy related industries, a void in the Wyoming eminent domain law perceived by landowners as allowing abuse of eminent domain by nongovernmental entities, and accelerating market values of land, making one-time payments for compensation less satisfactory.”
See Wyoming Supreme Court decision – Barlow Ranch, Limited Partnership v. Greencore Pipeline Company, LLC; (2013 WY 34; Case Number: S-12-0038; S-12-0039; Decided March 19, 2013); paragraph cited above on p. 11 of the 43-page decision. The Court’s decision is easy to locate on the internet and is available as a downloadable pdf file.
2 Water tower suit involving Exxon’s CEO prompts a fracking fracas: Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Jim Fuquay, Feb. 24, 2014 – http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/02/24/5597785/water-tower-suit-involving-exxons.html
This story is covered extensively by U.S. and international news media; a download of the lawsuit and response is available via The Wall Street Journal (a subscription site). For that, see EXXON CEO Joins Suit Citing Fracking Concerns: The Wall Street Journal by Daniel Gilbert, February 20, 2014.
Or type the following reference to the lawsuit into a search engine and you should be able to download the pdf file: Armey et al. V. Bartonville Water Supply Corp. et al. Number 2012-30982-211, Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Petition in the District Court of Denton County, Texas.
3 Transcript of CEO Rex Tillerson’s Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations – “The New North American Energy Paradigm,” June 27, 2012: http://www.cfr.org/north-america/new-north-american-energy-paradigm-reshaping-future/p28630
Tillerson stated in paragraph 16 of his remarks (emphasis added): “Now, with these new technologies that evolve always come a lot of questions. Ours is an industry that is built on technology, it’s built on science, it’s built on engineering, and because we have a society that by and large is illiterate in these areas, science, math and engineering, what we do is a mystery to them and they find it scary. And because of that, it creates easy opportunities for opponents of development, activist organizations, to manufacture fear.”
NOTE: This article is cross-posted on the Accountability Central website at this link: http://www.accountability-central.com/nc/single-view-default/article/voices-from-the-shale-boo-hoo-award-for-exxon-mobil-ceo-rex-tillerson-property-rights-emerge-as/ Accountability Central is part of the Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.