Remember the pop quiz? When you were a kid, one of your biggest fears was the pop quiz – an unannounced, spur-of-the-moment test that your teacher decided to lob your way. If you’d studied closely, you might be fine. If you hadn’t, this was your moment of reckoning. Pop quizzes exist in the corporate world, too, in the form of unannounced visits and meetings and audits and, in some cases, visits from regulating authorities. Earlier this week, news is coming out about an Exxon Mobil fracking company called “XTO Energy, Inc.” that got a pop quiz in the form of a visit from the EPA back in November of 2010. They failed.
Just how badly this Exxon Mobil subsidiary failed that 2010 inspection is only now becoming clear. Here is what we know: the extent of its violations – which included illegally dumping at least 50,000 gallons of highly-toxic wastewater generated from the process of fracking into Pennsylvania’s water system – have resulted in criminal charges being filed against XTO.
“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless,” an XTO spokesman said yesterday in a statement posted on the company website on September 10th. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.” For its part, XTO announced that it will challenge the criminal charges filed by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane. XTO calls the illegal dumping a “spill”, but it’s worth noting that PA has historically been friendly to frackers. “Friendly” might even be an understatement, if you consider that the state allows oil and gas companies to conduct potentially dangerous fracking operations on college campuses without any obvious “giving a damn” about the health and safety of its student population.
I think we, as casual observers, have to assume that whatever the EPA agents saw at XTO was pretty damning, then.
Hilariously, XTO (and, by extension, Exxon Mobile) feels the charges filed against it may actually make oil and gas companies into more serious offenders! “The criminal charges filed by the Attorney General are unprecedented and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. There was no intentional, reckless, or negligent misconduct by XTO. The incident did not result in significant or lasting environmental harm. Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices, such as recycling.”
If you can wrap your brain around that “logic”, you’re a more twisted mental patient than I am. Or, possibly, an Exxon Mobil executive. Here’s hoping these guys go to jail for a long time, if only for making such a ridiculous statement.