How Does a Public Notice About ExxonMobil’s Giant New Corporate Campus Stay Under the Radar?

A show of hands, please: How many of you knew about the public notice posted by the Army Corps of Engineers this January asking for comments on environmental issues related to the new 389-acre office campus that ExxonMobil plans to build for its employees north of Houston, just south of Spring Creek? If you heard about the permit application before the February 17th commenting deadline, please let us know — just add a comment to this story.

Why is Swamplot asking?


Because it isn’t clear how “public” the Corps’ public notice was. Swamplot’s report on the plans for the office campus that were detailed in that notice — which was published a full month after the deadline for public comments directed to the Corps and to the TCEQ — was still apparently newsworthy enough to receive a writeup on the website of the Houston Chronicle and notice from a Houston Business Journal reporter. For months, reporters from both of those publications have made it clear they’re looking for any information they can dredge up about ExxonMobil’s campus plans. But they didn’t have this. Another clue that much of the public may not have been aware of the Corps’ and TCEQ’s public notice: The considerable amount of web traffic Swamplot’s post about it received — much of it apparently from ExxonMobil employees eager to glean any news they could about their company’s secretive project.

By one account, ExxonMobil’s campus will include about 3 million sq. ft. of office space for the oil giant, and provide workspaces for as many as 17,000 employees. It’s being planned for a forested area just west of I-45 and south of The Woodlands, near the headwaters of the Hardy Toll Road. How could a public notice about such a huge development escape notice by the public? One reason might be that ExxonMobil’s name wasn’t on it. The Clean Water Act application to the Corps for the property was submitted by an entity called Palmetto Transoceanic, which isn’t quite as well known as the company it appears to be working for.

Here’s the text portion of the public notice that was posted online by the Corps of Engineers’ Galveston District:

What did you know about this public notice — and when? Have you been tracking the shadowy appearance of ExxonMobil’s enormous development as it quietly gathers necessary approvals? If you have, Swamplot would like to hear from you.

43 Comment

  • I don’t follow public noties, but I do read Swamplot, which reported last year Palmetto Transoceanic bought this land.

    Me thinks Palmetto Transoceanic is part of Friendswood Development Corp, which was formally owned by Exxon.

    It pays to have friends.

  • You may consider signing up for the USACE-Galveston District Public Notice email distribution list. You can do so at their webiste on the Regulatory – Public Notice page. That way you won’t miss another Public Notice.

  • Why am I reminded of the opening chapter from the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?” Ah yes, here’s the passage:

    “But the plans were on display …”

    “On display? I had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

    “That’s the display department.”

    “With a flashlight.”

    “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

    “So had the stairs.”

    “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

    “Yes,” said Arthur, “Yes, I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying, ‘Beware of the Leopard.'”

  • The first rule of working with ExxonMobil is don’t talk about ExxonMobil.

    I’ve worked for Exxon in the past. I don’t blame them for being secretive. The entire world thinks they are evil incarnate. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone is not out to get you.

  • I don’t quite understand why anyone is surprised, or outraged or whatever, by this. How would you prefer that the Public Notice be posted, flyer on your windshield when you’re leaving work? If they posted it in on under Public Notices, would more people have found it? Would Swamplot have found it? In a perfect world we would all receive in our inbox exactly those public notices we were interested in and no others, without having to lift a finger, but sadly, this is not a perfect world. A Houston real estate blog might want to take the time to add themselves to the Public Notice distribution list of a government agency with involvement in major land development projects.

  • I have noticed they thinned out a lot of trees in the area labeled “8” on the map.

    They even have temporary street lights going down the side of Springwoods Village parkway.

  • How many of the other hearings that day did Swamplot know of before hand?

    Just curious.

  • You can also go to the city’s website and find a list of all the hearings while you’re waiting for someone to do your work for you.

  • I think the point Swamplot is making is not that the “public” part wasn’t public enough, but the “notice” part was insufficient. Nowhere does it say anything about ExxonMobil. Unless you are a real estate insider, you would not know anything about the Palmetto entity. And who here can actually go to a USGS map and find the location based on the description? Had the notice described the property as an “ExxonMobil Office Campus”, someone would have spotted it and tipped off the media.

  • Heard about it. Shouldn’t matter who the purchaser is, in fact, after reading your comments, it is probably more fair all around if they do not disclose who they are. Posters on this site are quite amazing. I am astonished daily in what they seem to feel they are entitled to when it comes to property owned by others. And how much Swamplot originators do to creatively stir the pot.

  • I knew nothing about Exxon/Mobil’s plans until recently. My interest has been in the Grand Parkway project – specifically Section G which is to slice through wild, green SE Montgomery County.
    Section G’s western end hits I-45 North, abutting Section F-2. F-2 will feed both the new Springwoods Village development and this proposed Exxon Campus project.
    I think Springwoods Village (housing/commercial) could commence without the Grand Parkway in place, but I seriously doubt XOM would build a new headquarters, and relocate thousands of employees, without this new ring road.
    Harris County washed their hands of Grand Parkway’s Sections F-1 & F-2, handing responsibility back to the State.
    Montgomery County seems psyched to play in the big leagues and is looking for financing for Section G.
    It may have found it – even before officially soliciting bids – in Odebrecht (builder of the Trans-Oceanic Highway through the jungles of Peru & Brazil.) To my knowledge, Odebrecht has a small and recent presence in the U.S. (Miami Int’l Airport people-mover) and in Houston (polypropylene.) This road construction could be the company’s big show here – to build for us what we can’t afford to build.

  • Would be nice if they paid taxes like the rest of us. They ARE EVIL!

  • daveza322, SFP, and LudiKris are right.

    There was nothing secretive or covert about this. I knew about this when this came out. Various local environmental and watershed groups are signed up to all the public notice alerts provided by USACE, TCEQ, various cities, counties and other agencies. If you talk to or follow one of these local community groups (you know, actually involve yourself in the community), you would have known about this.

    These groups are generally best at providing comments and often do. What this really show is the complete ineptness at the Houston Chronicle and the amateur reporting at the Houston Business Journal. I don’t expect TV news to cover this since this is a topic few really care about.

    We all knew long ago this was the location of Exxon Mobile’s future offices and the land plans for the adjacent development.

    If there was something truly egregious about the proposed plans, these active groups would have raise flags and you would have seen news articles about it. That’s what these groups do.

  • You should subscribe to the Galveston Corps public notices, as should all the media in Houston. The Corps are also subject to open records requirements. Pay close attention to the (now leaked on Inside EPA) new guidance on wetlands that would increase jurisdiction to include more isolated wetlands (prairie potholes anyone?). Write letters! Wetlands are worth their weight in gold to a hurricane-prone and sinking city. No net loss!

  • Yes, I knew about this – lock stock and (smoking) barrels, in fsct it didn’t take much if any “investigative” effort. Began looking into it all when Swamplot previously published the news of the land purchase and acquiring (shell entity) company name I began to do research and came up with lots of information including this pretty quickly and frankly I agree with above comments, the application should be judged on it’s merits not on who the apllicant is.

  • Stupid Swamplot, relying on intentionally deceptive public notices! All the cool kids like to excoriate you for not being “involved in the community” and “knowing about things we weren’t going to tell you about.” But they’re only bringing it up ex post facto of course, just to be spiteful.

  • For example…

    Here is something from the Galveston Bay Foundation, who do comment on wetland permits. Sierra Club also tend to send in letters. You might find out if they commented on the public notice for this action. Other state agencies also send comments. Swamplot had the Segment E public notice(s), right? FYI, the Nationwide Permits are up for their 5-year review, with some interesting new ones.

  • @hdtex

    According to the documents filed with the FEC ExxonMobil paid $5.811 billion in tax in the last quarter.

  • Sorry, SEC not FEC….

  • @hdtex,

    You must be one of those people who actually believed the silly line that “rich don’t pay taxes” and “evil oil companies get away with not paying taxes”.

  • US has the highest corporate tax rate in the world of 35% and the only civilized nation taxing “foreign income”. The bottom 50% of people pay no tax at all and top 5% pay 75% of all taxes. Adding to the fact that those 5% create most of the jobs and do most of investments, I say they pay TOO MUCH TAXES!

  • This project is following all due process as required by the Galveston Corps District and TCEQ. Many consultants or developers routinely file permit applications with the district on behalf of the project proponent. If you are trying to accuse Exxon indirectly (or not so) of improper procedure you are way out of line.

  • don’t feed the trolls

  • The biggest HQ-related news in recent history, and all of the media outlets mysteriously drop the ball, despite “everyone” supposedly knowing about it. If not suspicious, certainly creepy, though ExxonMobil certainly has been accused of worse.

  • @mitulica

    I love the left wing “research” that plays with numbers. Read their definition of “Tax Burden” … It only shows change compared to historic average in the same income level, it does not compare the different income levels. In short that chart shows nothing and top earners still pay vast majority of the taxes.

  • Everybody seems to think it only “other people/corporations” that don’t pay enough taxes. Have these people ever bothered to look at how much they pay? Frankly, with all the deductions we’re allowed, I’d be surprised if anybody paid the stated tax rate.

  • Commonsense…? I know that this deviates from the nature of this original piece; however, in light of your views on corporate taxes, how do you explain the recent news of companies like General Electric not paying any tax at all. GE had a net profit of +$14B, of which they claimed $5B as profits from within the US and they still did not pay tax, based upon loss carrys which were carried from the past couple of years during which they were also receiving US govt bailout money. While on paper the US may have the highest corp tax, the top corps merely run their operations offshore with the sole intent of shirking their tax responsibility. Contrary to your thinking, it is the smaller corps that pay the bulk of of corp tax bills.

  • GE is a special case of corruption. The lobbying money GE throws at the government makes what oil companies lobby look like pennies.

    GE’s malfeasance has caught the eye of many and forcing many investigations to pop up in D.C. Evidence is showing that the current administration is looking the other way on GE’s actions.

  • KevPat… That is very complex subject and a lengthy debate. I agree that the listed tax rate and the actual tax rate companies pay is quite different, but it’s all due to legitimate profit/loss and carryover calculations. There are a few companies that stand out on certain years but as a whole top earners (companies and individuals) pay unquestionably vast majority of taxes based on $ amount not percentage of their income.

    P.S. GE payed billions in local, state, and sales taxes for the same year.

  • I really gotta spell check, crap.

  • Commonsense – In the end our country will continue the downward sprial until our elected officials, regardless of political stripes, get their collective acts together and re-write our tax codes. I am glad that you mention that GE at least paid sales tax, as they and anyone else should pay; however, paying sales tax should in no way absolve any company of their federal obligations.

    It is also very easy for anyone to use the oil companies as the “evil empire” seeing that we are in the land of oil companies. My critcisms go well beyond just oil companies.

  • GE makes a loads of money killing innocent brown people far far away.

  • And convincing many gullible people that some how toxic compact fluorescent bulbs will save the planet over incandescent. And they even made the evil move to have congress ban incandescent bulbs which will cause several U.S. manufacturers to shut down and lose U.S. jobs with their new bulbs all made overseas.

  • I know! I’m buying up incandescents like a hoarder.

  • These rhetorical questions about “why didn’t X pay any taxes in Y country in Z year in their ZZ sector operations?” which lead to the inevitable answer “because their EVIl CROOKS!!1!! are very annoying. If you don’t understand the U.S. Tax Code, become an accountant instead of an architect so that you can uncover the great conspiracy of the 2010s.

    OR….. Or you could use Google for 10 minutes and go find the answer, showing that deferred tax is a perfectly legal and legit method. And I understand the reason because even with full-time regular employment, my annual income varies widely, and I don’t even have to deal with capital gains and losses yet.

  • “Killing brown people”? Really???
    Why doesn’t someone just suggest the hypothesis (or maybe it’s already posted on one of those kooky(ier) blogs you read) that the new ExxonMobil campus is actually a suburban concentration campus, and high-temperature furnaces are being built there?

  • What I’m learning from all this: “Soylent Green is People!” will happen if we don’t simplify the tax code.

  • it’s not our job to contradict bad publicity. maybe if companies didn’t find it quite so profitable to offshore as much operations as possible and lobby congres like crazy for added perks we could all have a little more tax revenue to afford a better education with an actual economics course you can learn something from.

    i’m sure they’re not doing anything illegal, but nobody can deny that a couple hundred million spent on lobbying and handing out money to decisive congressional districts is a guaranteed pay off that represents an unfair advantage that small businesses and citizens don’t have. us common simpletons have to revert to our quality education of “if it looks like __, smells like__ and talks like ___”, well, i’m sure you get the idea.

    isn’t GE just a bank in disguise now days anyhow.

  • Ehhh, I think the “poor us, we lack education because Exxon, GE, et al deprived us of it(*)” excuse does not fit with the facts. Frankly, I would be too embarassed to blame these companies instead of myself for not having better success in life. But that’s just me.

    No college degree is required to search Google. It might take someone who spells poorly (Google spellchecks now) or reads slowly 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes, but the resources are available to anyone.

    It comes down to a ironic combination of 1. laziness/reluctance to looking up anything that contradicts one’s existing opinion, 2. an extraordinary amount of effort in constructing evidence to fit one’s original opinion … which eventually becomes a conspiracy theory.

    Yes, GE is kind of like a bank and makes 1/3 of their profits from their financial services. People would say that Exxon acted like a bank too for a while (always a partner on projects, rarely the operator), but I think they were pretty bad at reserves replacement.

    * – Am I interpreting your post correctly??? I don’t want to assume too much.

  • So eiioi, are you trying to say GE doesn’t kill innocent brown people far far away? You are quite a sap if this is what you are trying to say.
    You’re probably scared of terrorists too. And you’re probably also a mis-guided republicrat.