Exxon Mobil CEO’s lawsuit ironic—but not unfair

02/25/2014 6:33 PM

02/25/2014 6:35 PM

If you think some Denton County landowners want to stop construction of a nearby water tower because they fear gas drilling, then you don’t understand Denton County or Texas.

Much — too much — has been made of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s lawsuit along with former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey to halt construction of a $1.2 million water tower near their ranch homes in Bartonville.

Tillerson, Armey and other neighbors simply don’t want a 16-story-tall water storage tank near their homes. They are suing to support Bartonville’s effort to restrict the project’s size and scope.

But because one sentence in the lawsuit complains that the local Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp. utility will “sell water to oil and gas explorers for [hydraulic fracturing], leading to traffic with heavy trucks,” news sites worldwide have had a field day writing headlines about the irony of Tillerson’s lawsuit.

Tillerson’s attorney now says he wishes he had left that sentence out. Neighbors of Tillerson’s 83-acre Bar RR Ranches listed plenty of other concerns: the nuisance of the tower’s all-night security lighting, equipment noise and added traffic hazards.

Bartonville has fought to uphold its zoning decision in court.

The water corporation has argued that zoning rules don’t apply or weren’t enforced fairly, and that the cities and businesses of Bartonville, Copper Canyon and Double Oak need a second water tower.

It’s absurd to accuse landowners of hypocrisy because they don’t want a neighbor to build something more traffic-intensive than what the city planned, whether it’s a water tower, an apartment complex or a drilling rig.

The land in question is zoned for homes built on 2-acre lots. Building a water tower would have required a special permit.

Tillerson is only expecting the water supply corporation to follow the same zoning and development rules that are often applied to Exxon Mobil.

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