Thursday, February 22, 2018
Business

PolitiFact: Did Rex Tillerson sue to keep fracking out of own back yard?

The statement

Says Rex Tillerson "sued to keep a fracking project out of his back yard."

Food & Water Watch, Dec. 10 in a campaign letter

The ruling

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state, doesn't have a problem with fracking until it affects him, a consumer rights group says.

"ExxonMobil is a major player in the fracking industry, and #ExxonKnew climate change was a problem for decades, but covered up the evidence," reads a campaign letter from Food & Water Watch. "Tillerson infamously sued to keep a fracking project out of his back yard, but seems happy to profit off fracking in other people's back yards."

For this fact-check, we wanted to know if the head of the largest natural gas-producing company in the United States really said no fracking way to a drilling project in his own neighborhood.

Food & Water Watch is right about Tillerson's participation in the natural gas litigation, though its account misses a few details.

Fracking-caused noise and traffic was one of many concerns listed in the lawsuit. Tillerson's lawyer also told the Wall Street Journal that Tillerson himself cared the most about property devaluation. And the oil chief dropped out of the lawsuit after receiving attention for it.

In 2012, Tillerson, his wife and their neighbors in Bartonville, Texas, sued to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower in their luxury community. The tower would, in part, supply water for hydraulic fracturing — which injects pressurized water as well as sand and chemicals under shale rock formations to extract natural gas.

The lawsuit contended the project violates the town's zoning ordinance and will also be an "unbearable nuisance."

"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 an unsafe and unattractive nuisance to the children of the area," the suit reads.

"Furthermore, upon information and belief, (the Bartonville Water Supply Corp.) 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," it continues.

In addition to joining the lawsuit, Tillerson sat for a three-hour deposition in May 2013 and protested the project at a Town Council meeting that November, according to the Journal's report in February 2014. But the newspaper noted that Tillerson wasn't "the most vocal or well-known opponent of the tower." That distinction belonged to the lead plaintiffs, former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey and his wife.

Environmentalists jumped on the story, with plenty pointing out the irony and hypocrisy but embracing Tillerson into their ranks.

A former oil executive penned an open letter to Tillerson on nofrackingway.us decrying the environmental impacts of the practice and wishing him "good luck with that fracking water tank." Credo Action, an online hub of progressive activists, dubbed Tillerson "the highest-profile anti-fracking activist in the world." And MoveOn.org offered Tillerson its "FrackingFighter" award.

Under pressure and after a judge dismissed the claims, Tillerson dropped out of the lawsuit two months later in April 2014, the Dallas Business Journal reported. The Armeys and a few others continued to pursue legal action over the project, and the battle continued into at least November 2015.

We rate the claim Mostly True.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area’s population, already the largest of any metropolitan area in the state, is projected to grow from 3 million last year to 3.1 million this year, and to 3.3 million over the next five years.That growth is expected to bring c...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly a decade after it was first proposed, a new boutique hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is finally under construction.Workers are preparing the foundation of the Galaxy, an 11-story, 92-room hotel at Third Avenue N and First Str...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecasts

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecasts

TAMPA — Bloomin’ Brands this morning beat Wall Street expectations in reporting fourth-quarter net income of $16.4 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. The Tampa-based restaurant chain group — which in...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Dear readers, I hope that you are able to see this and that a popup saying you’ve won a gift card hasn’t taken over your phone. We have heard from many of you that these popups are preventing you from reading our news coverage.We hate them as much as...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Saving trees a passion for some St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders

Saving trees a passion for some St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders

ST. PETERSBURGBeth Connor, a longtime neighborhood environmental advocate, is alarmed at what she views as the destruction of the city’s trees in the name of development.She points to at least three properties that have been scraped of trees in recen...
Published: 02/22/18
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Updated: 4 hours ago
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chair...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

TAMPA –– Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to ask embattled jobs center leader Ed Peachey to either resign or face termination over concerns the agency inflated job placement numbers with the state. Chairwoman Sandy Murman said commis...
Published: 02/21/18
St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

A local landmark for a half century isn't coming down for good.
Published: 02/21/18
Investor calls for Bloomin’ Brands to let Outback Steakhouse stand alone

Investor calls for Bloomin’ Brands to let Outback Steakhouse stand alone

TAMPA — A second activist investor is calling for a big shake-up at Bloomin’ Brands Inc. In a letter to Bloomin’s CEO, Barington Capital Group, a New York-based investment firm, urged the Tampa-based restaurant conglomerate to let ...
Published: 02/21/18