Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s participation in a highly publicized lawsuit to block a 160-foot-tall water tower near his Denton County ranch is over. Tillerson and his wife in March withdrew their complaint, which they had brought as owners of Bar RR Ranches, according to court records. The Tillersons and several other Bartonville landowners, including former U.S. House Speaker Dick Armey, sought removal of a partly built water tower that they said violates local zoning ordinances and is inappropriate for its rural setting. The Tillersons’ motion to “non-suit,” or withdraw, their complaint was filed March 19 and approved March 22, according to court records. Another couple that had joined the suit took similar action about three weeks later.
The suit attracted a storm of media attention in February after The Wall Street Journal tied Tillerson’s involvement to complaints that Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp.’s water tower could be used to supply water for hydraulic fracturing. Exxon and its Fort Worth-based subsidiary, XTO Energy, along with other energy companies, use hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas production, prompting outrage at what was perceived as hypocrisy.
Tillerson’s attorney, Denton lawyer Michael Whitten, told the Star-Telegram at the time that Tillerson did not object to the water tower because of the possibility it could provide water for drilling. A single line in the complaint said such usage could provide heavy truck traffic, but Cross Timbers Water officials said that was unlikely and the tower was needed to meeting growing demand from residences and businesses, not drillers. Whitten’s office on Monday confirmed Tillerson’s withdrawal but had no further comment. Cross Timbers Water Supply officials could not be reached for comment Monday, and Exxon representatives said the company had no comment on what it has termed a personal matter for Tillerson.
The Armeys and two other couples are continuing to pursue the case. The next scheduled hearing is set for May 16 when the court will consider a motion to require demolition and removal of the water tower, according to court records. The city of Bartonville also is suing Cross Timbers Water Supply over the tower, saying it violates zoning ordinances. A Denton County court decision in favor of the water company was reversed by a state appeals court and returned to district court.
-- Jim Fuquay