Sunday, May 31, 2009

DISH TX, Air Quality Update

I have previously mentioned that we have major concerns about what is in our air here in DISH, TX, because of the 11 natural gas compressors and 3 metering stations that have invaded us here. We have purchased a natural gas detection unit, and we find that we have natural gas lingering on a pretty regular basis. There has been some air studies conducted in the Barnett Shale which have shown many air quality issues, one of which is the smog. As also previously mentioned, I am not some left wing extremist that opposes all energy production. I like my air conditioning this time of year, and really enjoy the heat on the cold winter mornings.

I also have never been put into the position that the natural gas industry and more specifically the natural gas pipeline industry has put me in here in DISH. I still believe we need energy exploration, but we need to do it right, and the manner in which it is being accomplished here, would be appalling to any logical person if the truth gets out there. You may get this vision, by only looking at the massive compressor station facility we have here. I have not found a single person, who believes what they have done to us is fair or reasonable, not even those who work in this industry.

Lately there has been much debate over the effects of the air quality in this area, and how much that is being affected by the natural gas exploration. I must be honest, I am no expert on air quality; however, I do know what we have been breathing for the past several years can not be good for us. The strong natural gas smell that has invaded our quiet community could not be healthy. On some of the more severe odorant leaks, people were complaining that they were having difficulty breathing; therefore it can not be harmless as they say.

Many of the studies deal with the effects on the area as a whole rather than an area like ours which has such a large conglomerate of natural gas processing facilities. One of the experts accounted one of the largest causes of air pollution to be compressor engine exhaust. Therefore, I must naturally wonder how we are affected with 11 compressors in the immediate area. Please note that we are a small town, not a massive city. We are roughly two square miles in size; therefore, none of the citizens here are that far away from this site.

With the above things in mind, we are looking at having an extensive air quality study performed on our air. I am hopeful that the experts are wrong, and it will not be as bad as they state; however, the experts have some pretty impressive letters that accompany their name, so any non-bias study will likely do nothing but confirm their findings. I am unsure what I will do when I confirm the obvious. There have been circulated articles showing that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality agrees with the expert’s reports. However, they have done little to give us any relief here from the odor, and no longer return the taxpayers call the matter. If you are fortunate enough to catch one in the office, you will likely be directed to someone else, so they do not have to mess with you.

I represent the people of this community; however, the air quality here also hits a very personal nerve. You see I have young son who was born 10 weeks premature. When he was born, his lungs were not fully developed, and therefore he needed to spend his first couple of day of life attached to a ventilator. This has led to him having some respiratory problems including asthma. The more I learn about the air quality and the relationship that has with my son’s asthma it makes this whole issue a lot more personal.

My son is now six, and every minor cold can turn into pneumonia that requires extensive medical care and on many instances a trip to the emergency room because of his breathing. If you have never had this happen to you, imagine the helpless feeling of not being able to help your child, who is struggling for every breath. I am not the only one here with a story like this, any here share similar stories, and health concerns, and most would like to see the entire mess cleaned up. Therefore, I feel I have a great deal of support from the community here to give us an extensive enough study to determine what is in our air and exactly how much of it comes from the conglomerate of compressor stations here, and also what effects it has on the human body.

I am finding it very difficult to find an environmental consultant that will help us. Unfortunately, most of the environmental companies are working for the industry, and therefore, they can not help us. Should someone be able to direct me to a respected environmental consultant, please pass on any information you may have. I would be nice to really have a non-biased opinion. The taking of the air samples is fairly elementary, and therefore, I can do that myself. However, it will difficult to find exactly what the numbers mean, and therefore, we will need an expert.

I am unsure where we go now here in DISH. We have a massive eyesore here, and I am afraid the chemicals it puts into our air may have long term health affects. Unfortunately, because of this mess, we can not give our property and homes away, nobody in their right mind will buy here, and since most of us have a great deal invested in our dream homes, we can not just walk away from it. Therefore, the only real option is to file suit in civil court, which is a long drawn out process, so we would still be here for a long time. So the options are not good on either account. The state agencies that take our tax dollars and solemnly swear to protect us, have their head in the sand, and seem to buy into the fact that we are the ones sacrificed for the good of the shale, and almost seem to promote this sort of action.

We have a new trend here with the pipeline companies, which is going just outside of our corporate limits and putting in a cheaper, uglier, noisier facility just outside our corporate limits. This is so they do not have to meet the minimum reasonable requirements that we have. They would prefer, to continue to make their profits at the expense of our community.

If they our outside of our corporate limits there is little we can do, and as previously mentioned the state agencies are not doing their job, so we are kind of out of luck. That leaves us only with the civil suit option, and many in the community are ready to make that step. I have tried to stay away from that option myself; however, it is starting to look like the only option for all of us to protect ourselves and our families.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Email message from Calvin Tillman, Mayor of DISH Texas, to Energy Transfer Contractor

The message below was sent to Landmark Field Service, which was contracted to acquire a right of way for a Energy Transfer natural gas pipeline through DISH, TX over a year ago . As you can see below, they treated the citizens here horribly, please remember this when signing an easement. Also, this can give you some idea, of how long the assault on our rights, and the suffering has been going on.

Mr. Craig,

This is in response to our telephone conversation on Saturday, June 27, 2008, regarding the pipeline that is currently being installed inside the corporate limits of the Town of DISH, TX. More specifically, the conversation pertained to several instances where your company, Landmark Field Services, Inc. (Landmark), acting on behalf of Energy Transfer, has failed to meet its obligations to the citizens of the Town of DISH, and the property owners who are being violated by Landmark.

The citizens of the community have several issues with your industry as a whole; however, I wish to only discuss the issues that pertain to your company. Please note that these issues at some point or the other have been brought to the attention of others in your organization, and have been ignored. Further, in my three plus years serving as an elected official in this community dealing with your industry, I have been told the same excuses time and time again. Therefore, I would request that you not insult my intelligence nor waste my time with lies and excuses.

I will give you my expected response from you, that others in your industry have used, and comment on the expected response from my position, and therefore, take a step out of the process of getting some action for the citizens of this community. Many of the items below are seen firsthand, while others have been reported to me by property owners, and citizens.

The first issue pertaining to the current pipeline being installed is that your company failed to obtain the required permit to install this pipeline, prior to work beginning. The fine for these actions would have been several thousand dollars; however, in the spirit of cooperation, the town chose to only issue a double permit fee, which saved your company thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. That is the way good neighbors act Mr. Craig, in case you were wondering.

Typical response:
Landmark was unaware that a permit was required in this instance, or it slipped the mind of the employee whose responsibility it was to get the is somebody else's fault.

My Response:
It is the responsibility of companies that install pipelines inside the corporate limits of a municipality to know what permits are required by the municipality. Short version…ignorance of the law is no excuse for failing to comply. The just of our ordinance, is for the installer to show the town where exactly the pipeline will be going, with a small administrative filing fee, which is well within our rights as a municipality in the State of Texas. However, based on the actions of your company, the town is exploring a much more stringent pipeline ordinance, as many other local municipalities have done. Also, I might point out that your company has installed pipelines in the town before, and therefore should know the process and permitting requirements. This is the first example of how your company treats the municipality and the property owners.

Another issue is the timeline in which your have performed this action. The ground work began on this pipeline in March, next weekend we celebrate our independence for the Fourth of July, and this is only a short stretch of pipeline that is being installed. That is four months, and I don’t suspect that the job will be completed anytime soon. Therefore, you have left this area a construction zone for all of this time. During much of this time there have been open trenches several feet deep left uncovered. This poses a danger to the surrounding property owners, livestock, and further takes away from the growth of this area. Also, prior to this project beginning, you assured the property owner that this project would be completed in October of 2007. However, it will likely be completed more than a year later, and therefore, Landmark lied to the property owners and the town. This is a horrible abuse of the powers given to you by the state and federal government, and certainly not what was intended when you were given this authority.

Typical Response:
Landmark is working very diligently to complete this project in the projected timeframe; however, due to situations beyond our control we have been unable to complete the project. Further, the completions of these projects are only an estimate.

My Response:
You should think about things that affect the timeliness of work completion, prior to making promises. Further, it is believed by me that you do not take these items into account, nor are you concerned with the inconvenience you impose on the property owners’. Also, you are not concerned with the people of this community and therefore, this job is a low priority for your company. It is my opinion that if you do not complete the job in the stated timeline the property owners that you should compensate the property owners for the additional inconvenience, which in this case is for several months. In looking at the site recently I found no work going on; however, there were a couple of trucks left running with people sleeping in them at 2:30 PM in the afternoon. This does not give the impression that you and your company are working to finish the task and take away this horrible safety risk.

The noise that is omitted during the pipeline construction in very disturbing, and your organization has not taken effective steps to assist those in the area. For example, your company begins work very early on weekends, more specifically Sundays. Which are days that people typically dedicate to family or maybe sleep a little later than usual. Unfortunately, do to construction beginning at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, this has been taken away.

Typical Response:
The Town of DISH does not have a specific ordinance that would prevent Landmark from working early on Sunday morning. Also, do to the project being several months behind, we have to work seven days a week to complete the project.

My Response:
Does the Town of DISH need to implement an ordinance to prevent work and noise on Sundays? And again, it is up to Landmark, not the citizens of DISH to complete the work on time. Also, this shows without a doubt that Landmark does not have any concerns for the inconvenience they impose on the local area. I intend to further highlight this later in this message.

This is in regards to the first phase of the current pipeline, which was installed in Summer/Fall 2007. The property that the easement is located is not returned to its original state. For example; your company has crossed a local creek with the pipeline without returning it to its normal state. This has hurt the property owners who owned the easement as well as those who live upstream from this area. More specifically, your company narrowed the creek from its original state and altered the natural flow of the creek. Therefore, in periods of heavy rains, which we have occasionally, several areas upstream are now flooding, hurting homes and livestock, and the water is reaching higher ground than before your company destroyed the natural environment of this waterway.

Typical response:
Landmark cares deeply that the property owner’s right are not violated, and have made every effort to satisfy the needs of the property owners’. Also, Landmark cares about the environment and would do nothing to hurt it…everything is exactly as we found it. Actually, Landmark’s Landman assured me that he would take care of this, but has not yet taken any action.

My Response:
Landmark has put the environment at risk with its irresponsible actions, and although this is a personal opinion, you have violated people’s rights who live upstream from this location. During periods of heavy rains their land now floods hurting livestock and personal lives, and essentially making the property useless for anything, or “reverse condemnation”. It is further my opinion that Landmark should be held accountable for these actions. I have now brought this to the attention of the Army Corp of Engineers and have found that companies such as Landmark are given a permit that allows them to cross water ways with pipelines without further permitting, as needed. However, this is done with certain stipulations, including returning the waterway to its original state. Unfortunately, Landmark has failed to do that in this case. The property owner has before and after photos of this to highlight these failures. A formal complaint has been filed by me on behalf of the property owners to the Corp.

The property owner who now deals with their property flooding, previously had an area of the creek that could be crossed with some machinery, such as tractors, four wheelers, etc, in times of low water. However, since your company has put this pipeline through, they are unable to use this crossing in times when the water is low. So you have managed to flood these people’s property and prevent them from utilizing their property as they were previously able to do.

Typical Response:
The same as above on #4, with the additional comment of “Landmark is committed to being a good neighbor and benefit to the area”.

My Response:
No need to further respond.

Both the property owner on those neighboring has reported trespassing and theft from work crews working on the pipeline. Also, there is a vacant house that is located in the area that has been completely stripped of anything of value by these crews.

Typical Response:
All of the crews that work on these lines are fully aware that they are not to act in a manner that would reflect negatively on the company. Further, if any actions are brought to out attention it will handled firmly and quickly.

My Response:
I believe that your company turns your head to actions like this, and “stick your heads in the sand” until the problem goes away. I suspect for the most part you have difficulty keeping people employed on these crews and therefore you will not challenge those who do not act appropriately. This has been highlighted when the trespassing was brought to your attention and denied feverously by your company. Unfortunately, the perpetrator left his wallet at the crime scene. Therefore, as far as I am concerned your company not only condones this behavior, it welcomes it.

Your company found it necessary to park their vehicles in close proximity of a home, and congregate there for hours. Further, your crews would stare at the homeowner’s family including his wife and young daughter, making them fearful to leave their home. This also led to the constant disturbing of the homeowner’s normal routines, with the constant starting and running of the vehicles.

Typical Response:
I believe with phase II of this project your company has not parked vehicles in this area and pushed the mound of dirt in between the work site and the home site.

My Response:
Thank you!

For phase one of this project, which took place last fall, a cleaning of the lines, or removing the water from the lines, (I do not know exactly) took place right in the middle of two homes. This area is also close to several other home sites. The noise omitted from this is comparable to a jet engine at take-off power. This was going on until late in the night, it was only when I showed up with threats of citations did the noise not stop.

Typical Response:
We have talked to the local property owners and found that they are fine with the noise. We further offered them a hotel room to make up for any inconvenience. Also, the rest of the stuff listed above about being a good neighbor and so forth(this is a lie).

My Response:
In speaking with the people who live in this area, they do not want a hotel room, they want you to move the noise elsewhere, not move them. If you take nothing else from this, you may want to thoroughly review the Town of DISH’s noise ordinance, prior to making plans to do this again.

You took a 100 foot easement, with threats of condemnation, 50 feet away from a property line. Therefore, essentially nothing can be located on the easement, and there will not be room on the remaining 50 feet to construct anything. In short you have taken a 150 foot easement and only paid the landowner for 100 feet.

Typical Response:
I have never seen this before, so I am unsure what your response will be.

My Response:
In my research into imminent domain and condemnation, this is illegal. It is my understanding that you would either have to purchase all of the land (easement), or move the easement to the property line. I believe if the property owner was knowledgeable and went to condemnation, you would have been forced to move the easement or pay for the dead land, there is a great deal of case law to support this theory. Also, this is in direct conflict with the Town of DISH’s pipeline ordinance, which requires consideration to be given to situations such as this, when locating a pipeline.

I would like to summarize and give Landmark some advice to prevent the escalation of this matter. First and foremost the creek which you destroyed needs to be returned to its original state. I was unaware that this was the cause for the destructive flooding upstream until today. I will now need to further investigate this and notify those affected the reason for the increased flooding. There have been fences, livestock, homes, etc, damaged by this flooding. Also, the crossing needs to be repaired, again back to its original state, as you are bound by law to do. The next item is to complete this job as quickly as possible and move on.

Unfortunately, due to the things you have done here, you will likely not be welcomed with open arms should you need to return, but getting out of here soon would be a good start. Also, accomplish this without running loud machinery at 7:00 AM on a Sunday morning. Have a little respect for people’s lives. They have rights also. And under no circumstance should you plan on have the noise comparable to a jet engine go on for two days again. These things will certainly aid in developing a workable relationship.

Should Landmark not react promptly to these concerns, the Town of DISH is currently looking into legal remedies for these problems; our attorneys are looking into our options at the moment. I also would like to be given contact information for Landmark’s and/or Energy Transfer’s legal representation. The Town of DISH is represented by Taylor, Olson, Adkins, Sralla, and Elam, in Fort Worth, TX. Our legal team is led by Bryn Meredith. Bryn may be reached at (817) 332-2580. Should you need to further discuss anything please feel free to contact me. Also, I would like to request a response that you have received this message.

Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"

You Tube Videos of DISH, TX

We have been fortunate enough to have a couple of folks come out and film the our sitiuation here. Please see the links below for a video tour of DISH, thanks to Steve and Kathy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

DISH Newsletter From Last year

Below is an article I wrote for the DISH Newsletter last summer regarding pipelines.

A view from the Mayor:

We must create a society (town) where the community works for the good of every individual, and every individual works for the good of the community.
Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of Great Britain

As many of you may have noticed, we have been bombarded lately with natural gas pipelines. This has led me to perform a great deal of research into this pipeline business. It has also led me to the unfortunate conclusion that there is not much we can do to stop this activity. These companies have been given a great deal of power from a higher authority, and therefore we are unable to protect the town’s citizens from these companies.
The best thing that we can do is to educate ourselves fully on what our rights as property owners are, and also what rights these companies have. I have heard that some of these companies may have exaggerated their rights on the current pipelines that are being installed. Through my research with various sources, I have found some recommendations that I would like to share with you.

Lets first start with rights; these companies have been given some authorities that a public utility company have (although they are private and for profit) by the State of Texas, or more specifically the Texas Railroad Commission. This means that they have condemnation authority, where they may enforce imminent domain laws to obtain an easement (take the easement whether we like it or not!). Therefore, should you hold out long enough; you will have to go before condemnation court, which is a panel of three citizens. The only criterion to serve on this panel is that you must own property in the county that is applicable. Therefore, the panel should not be made of judges, lawyers, etc.

Landowner’s rights; the landowners have various rights in this process. For example, you have a right to be entitled to “fair market value” for the property that the easement takes, and also reasonable consideration for the effect on the neighboring property. For example if the easement cuts off a section of your property and therefore, makes it unusable, you may be entitled to more compensation.

There are many more rights that you have as a landowner, which you may find at: This shows the rules that these companies must follow, and links to the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights. However, once you sign the easement, you have given up all of these rights. Therefore, it is imperative that you take a moment and do some research, and you must go to condemnation court.

When the company who is acquiring the easement for the pipeline shows up on the door, the first offer you receive will be a small portion of what they will pay willingly. I would recommend that you listen; however, know that you will be able to get much more out of the easement. If you continue the negotiating process until the company reaches the limit that they will give without going to condemnation court. Do not accept this, and do not let the landman threaten you into signing the easement. You must follow this process to the end if you want to reach the full potential of money you will receive for the easement.

Condemnation Court; do not be afraid of condemnation court. It is really not a court at all, and you do not need an attorney to attend, this a myth that must stopped. All you have to do is show up and plead your case before this board of three people. You need to come up with the amount you think the property is worth and why; and also try to get the final offer from the company in writing. The condemnation court will not likely give you less that what company has offered and usually it will be more, in some case it has doubled, or tripled. Depending on how compelling your case is to them, and don’t forget that the easement is permanent, and you are limited on what you can put on top of it. Keep this in mind when developing your presentation.

You should receive a summons to appear before the panel; always send a letter and request and extension for the first meeting. You want to give yourself plenty of time to develop a presentation. Therefore, if you have difficulty in developing your presentation, please let me know and I will help. We are still small enough as a community that I can help everyone on the projected easement path, and still only have a few people to do this for. I have heard from those involved in these proceedings that the company condemning the property will be as nervous as you are showing up to these proceedings.

If the condemnation court does not satisfy you, then now you are forced to hire an attorney, and pursue a civil case. You may ask…what if I don’t want to give them an easement. Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do about that, neither can the condemnation court or a high priced attorney. If this is the path they have chosen, they have been given the right to take by the higher powers. However, if we all fully understand our rights, and demand to get all of them, we can make it more difficult and time consuming for them to get their easement. If we all stick together and force them to pay everyone the full amount, and take a great deal of their time doing it, the Town of DISH may become a less desirable route for them to take.

Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney, nor have I been to condemnation court, and only hope to give suggestions from my research to assist you, not give legal advice. I believe that if we all succeed, the whole community will be better. Therefore, I offer these suggestions to help you in the process. I have discussed this with attorneys who have been involved in these proceedings. However, if you feel compelled to get an attorney’s opinion, please do.

I have been trying to find options for the town to help everyone in this, but unfortunately there is not much we can do. Please know that I have had several conversations with the state legislature, as well as neighboring communities, and will continue to fight for the property owner’s rights. However, for now this is all I can do. I will keep you posted if things change, and would like to be kept informed if the landman should come a knocking. So give me a call and lets all help one another.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Stacked Deck

As I have previously mentioned, we have purchased a gas detection unit which detects natural gas down to five parts per million. In using this around the community we have found that we have lingering natural gas around our community with some frequency. This concerned me for various reasons, the first being the health implications of breathing natural gas on the citizens here, and the other being the obvious danger of explosion. The Town of DISH is at the crossroads of eleven high-pressure gas lines and therefore, any source of detonation could be catastrophic, killing many of those who live close to the facility. To make matters worse, the companies actually had a barbeque grill on the site, so the workers could make their lunch I suppose.

This apparent reckless behavior has left me baffled. I have often wondered why these companies would be so reckless with the lives of those around them. Why would they tempt fate in matters that deal with life and death situations? It would certainly appear that the liability for such gross negligence would be huge. If something were to happen here, there would be no doubt that these companies both had knowledge of the dangers, and made a conscious business decision to ignore it…or would there be?

To help in my understanding of the health effects of inhaling natural gas, a dear friend sent me a Texas Supreme Court decision. I was amazed as I read through the case at the horrible affects that these chemicals found in natural gas could potentially have. The case surrounded a city landfill, which also produces the chemicals methane and benzene, and it certainly seemed that the city knew of the dangers and did little to protect the citizens living around the facility. It was determined by a jury that exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy caused leukemia in the family’s young daughter. The jury for the case awarded the family $19,999,223.78 in total damages. The city appealed, and the appeals court reversed the $10,000,000 awarded for exemplary damages, but upheld the rest.

As I continued to read through the case it appeared as though the Texas Supreme Court justices were in agreement with the experts who pointed the blame for the leukemia on the chemicals omitted from the landfill. It further appeared that any logical person could determine that the city was at fault. However, in the end the Texas Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling and the jury’s decision, and the family was awarded nothing. I was amazed that after several pages of what seemed to solidify the case against the city, the justices overturned it. I have attached the case for those who get this via email.

This led to further research on the matter of how exactly this could happen in America? I knew that the Texas Supreme Court judges were elected, but surely the corruption that we see in most of our political arenas did not reach this level…unfortunately, it appears that it has. It some very remedial research, I have found that there has allegedly been some level of corruption in the Texas Supreme Court for many years. Many of the justices take hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those whose cases come before them. Guess which industry is always one of the top contributors…oil and gas.

I have read through several articles, which I have attached links for your convenience, and found that the Texas Supreme Court sees only a small portion of the cases that are presented. This is determined by a secret ballot vote by the justices. Therefore, it is not known how they vote on whether they see the case or not. So to the logical person, it would certainly appear that some bias could be present. For example; if you were given a twenty million dollar judgment because your home and family was blown up by an irresponsible gas pipeline company, the Texas Supreme Court could option to take the case and overturn it. They could also choose to not take the case if the gas company won at a lower court, and it was you that was appealing to the high court. Has this happened? I will let you read the articles and make that determination for yourself.

One of the articles shows a situation much like the one that threatens us here in DISH. There was a natural gas pipeline that exploded in South Texas killing three hundred people. This case was presented to the Texas Supreme Court and it was brought up that one of the justices had taken huge campaign contributions from the company at fault, and should abstain from participation in the case. Now any logical, reasonable person would have made the decision to abstain on their own to prevent the appearance of corruption.

Please note that as a local elected official, I must abstain from anything that could be perceived to benefit me. I am sure that there are cases of local elected officials taking action that benefits themselves, but the law is clear on what they are supposed to do. However, if you look at the political action committees of all of our large oil and gas companies, you will find many of your local officials have received funds from them. I personally have never taken a campaign contribution from anyone, nor do I intend too. I look at the job of mayor, as being public service, in which we should all do our part. I do my best to make decisions that benefit everyone in the community, not just a few.

I must have been very naive in my assumption that most of our elected officials hold the same views as me. However, it has become apparent that we have no incentives for these companies to operate safely or responsibly. The State of Texas has built a system that gives all of the cards to the various oil and gas companies that do business here. There appears to be absolutely no accountability in this industry. We allow them to do as they wish, and it is apparent that the regulatory agencies will do what benefits the companies or the industry with little concern for those hurt or sacrificed in the process. All you have to do is make a trip to DISH, TX to see this illustrated.

These for profit pipeline companies have been given a greater power of eminent domain than any other public organization. They also have a regulatory body whose leaders take millions of dollars in campaign contributions, and serve as a lapdog to the industry, rather than the regulator they are charged to be. And any attempt to change these laws is virtually impossible, because the State Legislature does not get paid by the taxpayers; they get their money from lobbyist, as well as oil and gas.

Not growing up in Texas, I am afraid I do not understand how this system could be allowed to get this corrupt. Unfortunately, the same scenario is likely to be very similar in almost any state or local government. We, the underlings, the hard working taxpayers, the ones who pay the bills, seem to have little say in what happens to our land, air, water, or our own property for that matter.

So what do we do now? The first is we must hold our elected officials accountable for their actions, or lack of. This starts with our local officials and goes to the highest levels. It does not matter the party affiliation, there are good and bad on both sides of this issue. To those who have not yet seen the negative effects that this industry has to offer, you need to get ahead of the game and make the industry be responsible from the beginning. Anything they say they will or will not do; make them put it writing; in the leases, easements, or any other agreement. By the time you realize how bad it can get, it will be too late for you to take any positive action.

Here in DISH, I have asked the commissioners to allow me to get some quotes to perform a comprehensive study on the air quality here, and been given the go ahead. We will be looking for many toxins such as the methane and benzene that are known to be in natural gas as well as 66 other known toxins in our air. As you may have seen in other studies, compressor sites have been determined to be some of the worst offenders of air quality, so hopefully we will see how they directly affect us. I am hopeful that if the results of this study show that our health is at risk, that one of the regulatory agencies will pull their heads out of the sand (or big energy’s butt) and finally does what our tax dollars pay them for, and protect us and our children.

Calvin TillmanMayor,
DISH, TX(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

DISH, TX The Worst Case Scenerio

Here in the town of DISH, TX we have the worse case scenario when it comes to the negative effects of the Barnett Shale. We are called grand central station by some, and ground zero by others. We have been referred to as the "canary in the coal mine", as many look here to see the extremes of the negatives effects of the boom of the Barnett Shale. I never heard the term "sacrifice zone" until moving here, but it didn't take me long too realize I was part of one. After several years of a constant battle with the 11 compressor stations, 19 natural gas pipelines and 3 metering stations in our two square miles, I continue to learn that the fight will continue on.

Last year we had a pipeline company, Enterprise Texas Pipeline, who installed a 36" high pressure gas line right through the middle of DISH. The conduct of this company was horrendous at best. I had several instances of work crews defecating on property owners property, not ensuring livestock safety, leaving open trenches, complete disrespect for those in the town including the elected officials, and not complying with the written agreement with the property owners. So much for the promises even if they are in a contract. My hopes were that these people would go away and never return. I was forced to have our town attorney send letters contemplating civil actions. Due to the size of our town and our budget, fighting a company civilly would be an uphill battle.

Just about the time I though the thugs were to be through installing their pipeline, they approached me about putting yet another eyesore in our town. This eyesore will be a metering station. To those of you who do not know what that is, this is where they meter the gas, so they get paid. Of course they will need to put another pipeline in so that we will have the round number of 20 pipelines. One advantage we have is that another city was sued by Chesapeake over a compressor station, and the city actually faired very well when the judgement was made.

They confirmed the municipality's right to demand setbacks from major roads and require reasonable aesthetic screening and landscaping. For this metering sight, all we have asked is for this company to do their legal obligation. They have responded by showing up at public meetings with their newly hired gun, a high priced Dallas attorney who has made his fame and fortune suing municipalities(I doubt he lives next to a compressor or metering station). Every city attorney in the metroplex has heard of the high priced attorney they hired, you might call him famous or infamous, whatever the case he is too be respected by all.

To those who don't know, this is a message to me and those in the town who would stand in the way of profits for Enterprise Texas Pipeline. You see most of these companies would rather spend their money on attorneys that putting in a facility everybody can live with, that is just how they do business. After several months, and thousands of dollars in legal fees we finally got them to agree to set the facility off the road, and put reasonable fencing to hide the piping. They acted as though they were doing us such a favor, and we should embrace them with open arms.

We feel that this is still forced upon us, and this is the least they could do, we by know means want them here, but if they are going to continue to sacrifice us for the good of the shale, then they should make it as nice as they can. So again they show up in force with their high priced attorney to the last public meeting. I allow everyone to speak their minds for the most part at our meetings, so I continued this tradition at this meeting. Therefore, many of the citizens of DISH stood up to speak their minds to the representatives.

Even former mayor and town founder L.E. Clark, and his wife, who usually support these companies, stood up to express their displeasure with the site All they did was point out the facts, such as this sight ruins property values and quality of life, and well as bringing a billion cubic feet of a toxic and extremely explosive substance to the neighborhood every day. They responded to this by getting upset with DISH, and now they are threatening to sue us, or in proper terminology litigation.

The taxable evaluation of the entire town of DISH is around 28 million dollars, this metering station will meter that much in natural gas daily.There is more to the story, though; they plan to bring this pipeline all the way from Fort Worth. Therefore, they have to deal with other cities along the way. However, it appears as though we are the only ones threatened with suits. Why, you might ask? Because they believe that we are too small to adequately defend ourselves. This is a position that many of you have found yourselves in or soon will. As they bully, when they can not get their way, they run up your legal fees asking remedial questions that anyone who has watched Perry Mason would know. Then they hire a spokesman to clean up the mess.

Fortunately, we have small war chest, and we are members of the Texas Municipal League, which is like a big brother that gives us some protection from the bullies. Therefore, I will stand and fight this battle for the citizens here, and for everyone else as well, as long as I can. This is one story that should be shared, because unfortunately it is typical of this industry. I have had some success, but I have had to deal with this kind of fight for the last several years.

If anyone has any ideas that will help us here, please let me know. To those who have websites or blogs, please post this story. If you would like to hear the story from Enterprise Texas Pipeline, their point of contact is Delbert Fore, Director, Governmental Affairs; office (713) 381-2456, Other than this I am unsure of what to do. Before it is over this will have cost us thousands in legal fees, just trying to get them to do what any respectable company and industry would do on their own. Again, please help if you have any ideas, and as always, thanks.

Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Regulation of the Oil and Gas Industry

When the Town of DISH adopted its drilling ordinance several years ago I was told by many that we would never be able to enforce it. In response to us adopting the ordinance, the local Devon Energy Landman, said he would see us in court before he complied with our ordinance. However, after five years the ordinance has not been modified, nor has it been challenged, and Devon has drilled several wells in complete compliance with the ordinance. Therefore, drilling can be accomplished responsibly if these companies are forced, and they can still make money in doing it. As for the Devon Landman, he does not come around anymore, and has not been allowed to speak with me directly for quite some time now. However, the town now has a decent relationship with Devon now, and they have actually sponsored some community events here.

Having said that, Devon also has drilled multiple diagonal wells just outside of our corporate limits where they would not have to comply with our ordinance. They only drilled in the town when they could not get to the gas any other way. So if they have options, they will not do any more than they absolutely have too. Therefore, it is not that they can not comply with reasonable regulation; it is that they won't unless they are forced too. This is not limited to Devon, most all of the companies I have dealt with in this industry will do only what is required, and usually they will only do this after some threats and public disgrace.

As I have stated in previous messages, some companies would rather hire expensive attorneys and try to bully their way through, but in the end if they are forced too, they will comply. Devon started going down this path with the Town of DISH, and had their high priced attorney calling up, making threats and allegations. These allegations included statements that we somehow missed a step in adopting our ordinance and therefore, the ordinance wasn't valid, so it did not apply to them. I spoke of these tactics when I wrote "The Bluff" a few weeks ago. Fortunately, our Town Attorney is incredible, and eats these guys for lunch, so we stood our ground, and Devon changed the tune of the relationship and has been pretty decent to work with ever since.

As they mayor of a small town in the Barnett Shale, I must think about preserving the rights of the surface owners, while still allowing those who own the minerals to be able to access them. The State of Texas does not show any sympathy or protection for those who own the surface, while all of their efforts go into protecting the minerals. This would be due to the fact that the minerals are actually owned by the gas companies, such as Devon, Chesapeake, and XTO. They are not protecting the little guy, just big corporations who make campaign contributions, etc. In a future message, I would like to discuss the economics of the industry, and you will see that the little guy typically gets very little money for his mineral rights, and therefore, the big corporations are the ones who really make the profits, and it is their interest that the State of Texas will protect, not yours and mine.

There have been several bills proposed this legislative session in Texas that attempts to take away the municipal authority over the oil and gas industry, and give it to the state. This could be extremely disastrous for the average person who lives in this area, whether they own minerals or not. Some of these bills have been fought back, while others, no matter how much opposition; will pass through the legislature. You see when the control is at the state level it is harder to hold someone accountable for their actions. A state representative in Houston, or San Antonio, has no accountability to those who live in the Barnett Shale, but they vote on things that affect us. However, at the local level, the elected officials are more accountable to the people they represent. In DISH, the citizens are not my constituents, they are my friends and extended family. These are the people who watch and teach my children, helped me build my barn, and are there when I need them. Most of them have discussed their concerns sitting across from me at my kitchen table. Therefore, I fight to protect them and their property as I would my own.

Unfortunately, to this point there has virtually been no regulation in the State of Texas of the oil and gas industry. If further regulation is proposed, the same threats that I have found here in DISH start coming out. The industry will threaten to take their ball and go elsewhere. However, just like in DISH at the end of the day, they will do their drilling and get their minerals, in compliance with the reasonable requirements, and still profit in doing it. So when they threaten to stop drilling here and move their operations to Arkansas or Pennsylvania, I think they are lying…not bluffing…lying. Most of the minerals in this area have been secured by some company, and therefore, they have already made a major investment in this area. It would be foolish to think that they would simply walk away from that investment, due to a little regulation.

One of the unfortunate things I have seen here in Texas is that there is no consistency with the regulation. As a municipality we are able to take reasonable steps to protect the rights of our citizens. However, just outside our corporate limits, they are virtually free to do what they want to, when they want to, with no recourse. Just like the compressor and other noise and toxin producing facilities. If they are not inside the corporate limits of a municipality, they do not have a standard that they have to meet. They are virtually free to do as they choose with little recourse. Those who are near these facilities in rural areas are forced to follow the civil suit path, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, and will take several years to settle. Although, the companies have been lobbying to take the municipalities and their steps to protect property owner’s rights out of the picture, at least currently, we have some authority.

In my last message I brought up the story of Enterprise Texas Pipeline, who has chosen to move their pipeline a couple of hundred feet up the road, just outside of our limits to get around signing a right of way agreement with the town. We have only tried to get them to agree to the things that representatives from the company have promised in open meetings, and the agreement has been signed by other companies. However, as previously mentioned, it does not appear that anyone in this industry likes to be held accountable for their promises or actions. Before the pipeline gets to DISH, they will be forced to go through several other cities, which they will not be able to go around, and will likely sign a very similar agreement that we have proposed here. Why? Because, they will not have the option to move the pipeline a hundred feet up the road, to get around reasonable requirements. They, will not move the pipeline to Arkansas or New York to get around the requirement, it will stay here in Texas.

Having said that, I think that we must keep our regulation of this industry reasonable, and the term reasonable leaves some room for interpretation. For example the State of California has made the regulation of the hog industry so stringent that it is impossible for anyone to raise a hog in the state. Therefore, most of the farms there have shut down and we are now unable to meet the demands of the American consumer for pork. Therefore, the US is now importing large quantities of pork from other countries, where we have no idea of the conditions the pork is subject too, or what the quality of the meat is. By the way, this illustration has nothing to do with the swine flu, just a coincidence.

The point I make is that I am not some environmentalist wacko, nor am I opposed to reasonable drilling, and I have pointed out on multiple occasions, the positive impact of the Barnett Shale. However, with the oil and gas industry we are definitely not doing enough regulating. Typically those who take this position are labeled as the above mentioned term. I, like many of you, am a hard working honest American, who has seen the obvious flaws of this industry. Some of those who post my thoughts on various blogs have been labeled as left wing extremist and other ridiculous terms. They have taken photos of the irresponsible things this industry has done, and I hate to break to those who label them…the photos and stories are real. This is not some figment of a creative mind or fancy photo shop work…it is real. The horrible and unmentionable things that have been pointed out…are real. The industry certainly doesn’t want the stories to get out there…but they are real. And it is not good enough for us to continue to go down this path, and let this industry sacrifice those in their way, as the State of Texas has been allowing big energy to do.

This industry has somehow managed to get exempted from the clean water act. How on earth did we let that happen? Now the subject has come up to reverse this and make them subject to the act that all other industries are subject too. Of course, the industry is lobbying to prevent this, and that tells me one very important thing…they are not meeting the requirements, and they are not concerned about our water quality. Why else would they lobby to keep this exemption? I often wonder if by allowing them to things they are doing, are we are trading one natural resource for another. And, what would the average person think about that if they knew? The Town of DISH has passed a resolution supporting the reversal of the exemption, and suggest that everyone consider doing the same. Please contact myself or the Oil and Gas Accountability Project for a copy of the resolution.

In Texas everyone has their head in the sand, including the regulatory authorities. It is time to take away the option to move a hundred feet up the road and not meet minimum standards, or move just outside the corporate limits of a city and put a huge well pad site, and ruin that property to get out of complying with a reasonable ordinance. The standards adopted by many cities, should apply everywhere, so the industry can no longer sacrifice those who do not live in a municipality. This was done to Ms. Doris Samples, who lives just outside the Town of DISH’s corporate limits. She had forty acres for sale and Devon put a massive five acre pad site in the center of the property. She tried to get them to move it to one side of the property, to prevent them from completely destroying the property's value, and they refused. I will include a photo to further illustrate the destructiveness of Devon’s action. She, like many others, have been forced to sue the company in civil courts.

In closing, it is very apparent to anyone who has pulled their head out of the sand, (or big energy’s backside) that more restrictive regulation must occur. Here, in DISH, I fully expect this area to someday be declared a toxic waste site. When that happens, none of those responsible for destroying our lives and property will be around to clean up the mess. It will likely be the taxpayers, who are again left to clean up the mess made by greedy corporations. To make matters worse, we are only a small town; there are many stories out there that are much worse than ours, with a much bigger mess. If this mess has not gotten to you yet, it is imperative to get ahead of the game and protect yourselves. They are not going to leave the profits in the ground, even if they are forced to be the good neighbor they claim to be. You will get your royalties, and maybe you won’t have to let them destroy your property and lives to get it.
Calvin TillmanMayor,
DISH, TX(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"