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In Texas, Exxon Having Its Way

October 31, 2009
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A decades-long feud between a wealthy Texas oil family and oil giant ExxonMobil continues to rage, according to the November issue of the always spot-on Texas Monthly. The piece lays out the case of the O’Connor family, which charges Exxon with deliberately clogging oil wells on the family’s property in order to guard against future competition after Exxon plugged the wells and abandoned the fields in the early 1990s.

Despite losing a verdict earlier this year by the Texas Supreme Court, the O’Conner’s intend to continue their fight against the oil giant. While there was significant evidence presented of Exxon’s sabotage, the court ruled against the family based on its interpretation that the case was filed two months past the statute of limitations. However, since Exxon failed to properly inform the Texas Railroad Commission about its methods in plugging the O’Conner wells, the family intends to pursue fraud charges.

Given the O’Conner family’s wealth and Exxon’s massive coffers, the fight could continue for years to come. As The Monthly noted,

The O’Connors and Exxon appear to be opposite sides of the Texas coin, with the former representing the rugged individualists who built this state and the latter representing the new Texas, a place driven by corporate wealth, political and legal power, and job creation. In a sense, we’re witnessing the sequel to Giant, the film that, for many people, captured the conflict between oilmen and cattlemen. In the Hollywood version, the rancher prevailed and the oilman was disgraced, but in today’s Texas, the corporation usually has its way.

And in Texas, as elsewhere, when corporations have their way, the rest of us suffer. The Monthly article concludes, “(G)iant companies are now allowed to operate in parts of Texas the same way they have operated in some Third World countries: exploiting the resources and moving on, without looking back.”

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