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Exxon Mails Notice to Wakulla Homeowners

Exxon Mobile
Posted at 5:45 PM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-18 06:52:49-05

CRAWFORDVILLE, FL (WTXL) -- Nearly 400 Wakulla County property owners could open their mailboxes to find letters from oil giant Exxon Mobil, claiming the company's right to drill, mine, explore or operate on their land.

However, one county commissioner stepped in after noticing the company's claim is no longer valid.

Adam Ribakoff has lived in his Crawfordville home for about a year. He's one of several property owners in his neighborhood listed in a letter from Exxon Mobil, claiming the company can work on his land.

"As you buy a home, you want to make sure you have a good investment," Ribakoff said. "To have a company come in and say, we have free rights to dig on your property...it doesn't make me happy at all."

But that claim is outdated, according to county commissioner Randy Merritt.

"I've researched the issue on my own and read the statutes and made some calls about the issue, and I realized Exxon was wrong," he said.

According to Florida statute, Exxon needed to renew its rights in 30 years before they expire. The last time Exxon renewed those rights was 1976, so the company needed to take action by 2006, but it didn't.

"That didn't stop them apparently, so that still didn't stop them from making the claim that they thought was legitimate, but it actually wasn't," Merritt said.

In the next few days, some property owners will receive a 10-page letter in the mail from the county clerk of courts. It has a lot of information from Exxon Mobil, but the most important part is on the final page of the letter, where the company withdraws the notice.

"My main motivation was not to leave citizens on their own to take on a multi-billion dollar oil company," Merritt said. "That's just not right. I wanted to help."

For homeowners like Ribakoff, the news comes as a relief, but he says things could've gotten much more serious if Exxon went through with its claim.

"No one would want to buy a house knowing that a big huge corporation can come on property at any time and be able to drill up their yard and do anything they want, for that matter," he said. "So, it's definitely a good thing that this did not go through."

WTXL has reached out to Exxon Mobil to learn more about its claim in Wakulla County. So far, the company has not responded.