Exxon Mobil CEO welcomes fracking, but not water tower in his backyard

Chairman, President and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex Tillerson watches a tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club course in Pebble Beach, California, February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Fiala

DALLAS (Reuters) - It’s not every day that the chief executive of the largest U.S. energy company joins a lawsuit opposing a new water tower planned in his neighborhood that could support fracking.

Officials at Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N said on Wednesday that CEO Rex Tillerson was opposed to the plan not because of fracking but because the tower would be much taller than what the town had originally proposed.

Tillerson, former Republican heavyweight Dick Armey and other residents of a ranch-filled suburb of Bartonville north of Dallas filed suit in 2012 seeking to block construction of the 160-foot-tall (49-meter-tall) water tower, arguing it would be an eyesore.

The suit, filed in Denton County District Court, also noted that the tower could encourage the town of Bartonville to sell “water to oil and gas explorers for fracking shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks... creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards.”

“Mr. Tillerson does not object to the tower for its potential use for water and gas operations for fracking,” said Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil.

Tillerson’s property is already adjacent to several oil and gas wells and fracking operations, Jeffers added.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the injection of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into bedrock to allow extraction of more of oil or gas. Exxon Mobil and other energy companies say the practice is safe, but many environmental groups say it can pollute the water table and cause seismic activity.

The tower has sat unfinished for almost a year as an earlier suit between the town of Bartonville and the water supply company proceeds through the courts.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio