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Trailer Talk's Frack Talk: Why a Mayor Was Forced to Leave His Town Because of Gas Drilling

Major Calvin Tillman left his beloved community of Dish, Texas (that has 60 gas wells) to protect his family from the dangers of natural gas drilling.

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Well, those companies have the power of imminent domain, and so it doesn't matter if you want them there or not. You don't have any choice in the matter.

So, let's take, for example, Dish. There is a major portion of our community, which is very much a rural community with large lots. There's a lot of it that can never be developed. These easements that are taken are permanent easements, and they're up to 100 or 120 feet ... 125 feet wide, and they're taken under the threat of imminent domain.

And so, that area will never be able to develop. You cannot even plant a tree on one of those easements. That's something that's not widely looked at because that can actually destroy the economic development of a community, and it has done a lot of that in Dish. There's a lot of our area that we will not be able to develop. And so, that costs the property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in surface values. And a lot of stuff just isn't taken into account.

Artel: So, at first, would you say your town in Dish, Texas, with 180 or so citizens -- they were open to the idea of the drilling? Because I want to take us from the start to what you're dealing with right now.

Tillman: Yeah, absolutely. In Texas, we have a lot of split estates, so actually the folks who actually sold their minerals when this "gold rush" was going on -- most of those have moved off somewhere else. They have sold the surface, retained the minerals, and moved off somewhere else. And as that has continued to happen, the bitterness towards the industry has continued to grow.

And so, we have a pretty large portion of our community who feel like we've really been done wrong by this industry, and they're very bitter.

Artel: And they're bitter because they're getting sick breathing the air; because they can't leave even if they wanted to because their way of life has been radically shifted to a point of them not being able to have a good quality of life there? Share with us perhaps your own personal story about it, in addition to you being the mayor of Dish.

Tillman: Well, these companies come in here, and they're the 300-pound gorilla, and they just run all over you; they run all over your rights; they run over everything about your way of life. They seem to think it's okay to put a compressor in that constantly emits 100 decibels of noise, and emits carcinogenic toxins. They seem to think that that's okay, and that's well within their rights to do so, and they don't give us any relief. They act like they just have the right to continue to sacrifice us for the good of the shale.

Artel: And so, your sacrifice has been your having to listen to ... What is the equivalent sound of what you just described in terms of this 24-hour-a-day decibel? What is that like, then?

Tillman: I believe 85 decibels is your average lawnmower. So, they say you should wear hearing protection when you're mowing the lawn because that can cause hearing damage. And so, that would be something that it would be equivalent to. It's just this engine that's always roaring in the background.

Now, over the course of time, through several threatening letters and debates back and forth, we've managed to get some of the companies to install some noise abatement, but they still haven't enclosed it. They can make a compressor station that sounds very similar to the air conditioner on your home. They can make it that quiet. But they won't unless you make them. And we've had to fight and fight and fight, and we've had to spend money.

 
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