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MSNBC Weighs in on Controversy Surrounding Exxon CEO's Fracking Lawsuit

Energy

Last week, as reported on EcoWatch the Wall Street Journal broke a story about ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson joining a lawsuit that cites the consequences of fracking operations as reason to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his Texas home. The tower would supply water to nearby fracking operations and the plaintiffs argue the project could lead to increased noise and traffic at the drilling site.

Last night, MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes went in-depth on the story, clarifying some of the controversy surrounding the lawsuit. 

"This is not about the technical definition of fracking, it's about whether we're going to have an honest, reality-based, debate about the costs of our energy policies," said co-host Ari Melber. "And look, those costs can get pretty ugly: unsightly water towers, fracking wells, strange smells and the kind of air and noise pollution just about anyone would avoid if they could afford it."

Former mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish, TX—an area strongly affected  by fracking—joined the show to talk about the health impacts of fracking, including nosebleeds, which forced his family to leave their home.

Then, Chris Hayes discussed the issue with Josh Fox, the director and producer of the movies Gasland and Gasland 2.

Also weighing in is former ExxonMobil executive Lou Allstadt, with an open letter to Rex Tillerson, published on No Fracking Way

Dear Rex,

We have never met, but I worked for your company for six months immediately after the ExxonMobil merger, the implementation of which I coordinated from the Mobil side. That was after thirty years with Mobil Oil Corporation, where just prior to the merger I had been an Executive Vice President and Operating Officer for Exploration and Producing in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. I now live in upstate New York. For the past five years, I have been actively trying to keep your company and the rest of the industry from fracking here. I understand from several press articles that you have fracking issues of your own, with a fracking water tower and truck traffic possibly detracting from your view and the value of your home.

In response to the prospect of fracking ruining our communities, many New York towns have passed zoning laws that prohibit heavy industry, including any activities associated with drilling for oil and gas. Those laws, along with very little prospect for economic gas production in New York, mean that we probably will not have to look at fracking water towers, let alone live next to fracking well pads. I say probably, because your industry is still fighting those zoning laws in the courts.

Ironically, your reasoning at the Bartonville, Texas town council meetings is virtually identical to the reasoning that I and many other citizens used to convince our local town councils to pass laws that prohibit the very problem you have encountered, plus all of the other infrastructure and waste disposal issues associated with fracking.

No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated. You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can’t afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations.

My efforts to prevent fracking started over water — not the prospect of having to see a water tank from my home, but rather regulations that would allow gas wells near our sources of drinking water, in addition to well pads next to our homes, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. These issues are legitimate, but they are localized. I am now much more concerned with the greenhouse gas impacts of fossil fuels in general, and particularly the huge impact of methane emissions from natural gas production and transportation.  These are global problems that local zoning cannot protect against. Only a major shift toward renewable energy sources can begin to mitigate their catastrophic climate impacts.

Before closing, I should explain why I have referred to ExxonMobil as “your company.” For several years after retiring I thought of ExxonMobil as “my company.” I thought that the company’s rigor and discipline in investing in sound projects was as good as it gets, and ExxonMobil was my largest single investment. I no longer own any shares of ExxonMobil or any other fossil fuel company.  I would prefer to be an early investor in alternative energy for the 21st century rather than hanging on to dwindling prospects for investments in 19th and 20th century fossil fuels.

It is time that ExxonMobil started shifting away from oil and gas, and toward alternatives — both for environmental reasons and to protect the long-term viability of the company. Many large energy producers and consumers, including ExxonMobil, are building a carbon fee into their long-term planning assumptions.  Actively supporting the phase-in of a carbon fee would be one way to move the company into the 21st century. Recognizing that methane emissions disqualify natural gas as a “bridge fuel” is another.

Good luck with that fracking water tank. I hope you don’t have to move, and also that you will help a lot of other people stay in the homes they love.

Regards,

Lou Allstadt

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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