Gas Patch 2010: Heroes & Villains


2010 was another banner year for Liars, Idiots, Nut-cases and Sinners in Dirty Ol' Town and Dirty Ol' State. Lawlessness ruled the shale as if the "Old West" never went away. What this town needs is a new sheriff.

But there were also a few significant local and national victories to keep hope alive. That hope comes courtesy of a handful of heroes working to save your life. Be sure and give one a hug or at least a check next time you see them.

Herewith, are my personal picks of the top stories and people of 2010, the Cliff Notes version. Hold your nose and dive in:


>>> In January, Cooks Children's Hospital in Fort Worth issued the results of a sobering new study that shows 25% of eight and nine year old kids in the Barnett Shale region have Asthma. The state average in Texas is only 7.1%. National average is 9.4%. Do you think there's a link with asthma and gas drilling in the Barnett? Who can we blame for this? Mike Moncrief, that's who.

>>> BTW: The Barnett Shale region also leads the state in Breast Cancer, Infant Mortality and a host of other health issues. Additionally, Tarrant County (FW) has the dirtiest air in the dirtiest state! Who to blame? (see above)

>>> Rolling Stone magazine #1096 had a cover story that blared in red and black ink: You Idiots! that called out the 17 worst "climate killers" in the U.S. of A. Among those was Exxon-Mobil CEO, Rex Tillerson who has since acquired XTO Energy of Fort Worth, one of the worst polluters in the Barnett and beyond.


>>> GASLAND is a winner! In February, Josh Fox's documentary film won the Special Jury Prize at the renowned, Sundance Film Festival. The film and Josh have since gone on to become a global phenomenon. The film with Josh in attendance screened at several north Texas events in 2010. The DVD was released in December. Stay tuned for GASLAND: The sequel.

>>> The national Sierra Club continued shooting itself in the foot causing collateral damage to the environment in 2010. I documented some of their shenanigans, past and present, in in an essay titled, Sierra Club as Fixer for the NG Industry. We all expect some atonement from the SC in 2011. In the meantime, the distress flag remains flying.

>>> Also in February, the Sue Pope Fund, the largest private clean air fund in Texas, announced that it would no longer issue anti-pollution grants promoting natural gas.

>>> The State of Texas led by Gov. "Roarin' Boy" Rick Perry sues the EPA over anti-pollution plan. What else is new?

>>> WINNER of the the Hall of Whoring Award for 2010 goes to.... The Fort Worth Museum of Science & History for their billboard aimed at little kids. It features a cute green dinosaur and the headline:

Fossil fuels. They're a gas.

>>> Read my expose about how this once-vaunted Fort Worth institution is teaching north Texas kids what it means to Sell Out.


>>> Steve "I got people." Doeung's final hearing before a Fort Worth judge ended ambiguously but the end result of his multi-year fight to keep a NG pipeline out of his front yard was a happy ending. Community outrage, public rallies and Steve's persistence against the City and Chesapeake Energy put pressure on state politicians and TXDoT to change the rules and allow the pipeline to run along the highway. In the process a hero was born.

>>> Elected officials in the City of Mansfield, Texas showed just how dumb Barnett Shale air can make you when they humbly asked Chesapeake Energy to build waterfalls on two of their proposed pad-sites in the town. Apparently, they hoped the waterfalls might distract potential buyers and persuade them to buy upscale homes near the gas wells. Never underestimate the stupidity of Texans.


>>> The Denton Record Chronicle reported that health test results show that residents of DISH, Texas have elevated levels of Benzene and other drilling-related toxins in their blood.

>>> April was a slow month for me as I was busy producing Fort Worth Prairie Fest, the Greenest Little Green-fest in Texas that just won the 2010 Critic's Choice Award for Best Outdoor Cultural Event by the FW Weekly. The event was founded as a push-back against gas drillers and the City who wanted to drill in the rare prairie park. The fest draws most of the environmental and social justice groups in north Texas. Come visit our Solar-powered event on April 23, 2011.


>>> One of the gutsiest activists in the Barnett is Kim Feil of Arlington. She carries around a dummy prop named Ben Zene. That's just one of the things I like about Kim. She puts herself out there in ways nobody else around here can compete with and she has facts and data to back up her theatrics. Check out Ms. Kim, "rapping" away at elected officials during an Arlington City Council meeting in May. We need more people like Kim in the gas patch.

>>> The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is a big fat liar. They intentionally lied to the City of Fort Worth about air testing. They lie to the citizens of Texas and they lie to the EPA. We need a clean slate at this useless agency.


>>> Ghosts of Gas Drilling Task Force past: Fort Worth resident and Barnett Shale victim, Jim Ashford filed an Ethics complaint against the City of Fort Worth for allowing gas drilling reps on the Air Quality Study Committee. The Ethics Review Committee that had been mothballed since Mayor Moncrief took office rose from the dead and pronounced Ashford's complaint legitimate. But once again, Moneycrief pulled a few strings and clipped a few wings to get what he wanted. He fired the old ethics committee and hired a new one. Result: "We don't need no stinking ethics!" Ashford's complaint was dismissed.


>>> The EPA, led by Dr. Al Armendariz, came to Fort Worth in early July. They held the first of four national forums on hydraulic fracking and other drilling-related water issues. Over 600 people packed a downtown hotel, most but not all calling for increased regulation of this dirty industry practice. The usual drilling execs and the TX RRC were present to defend their crimes against nature and humanity. The EPA promises a full report... in a couple of years. TXsharon's statement drew loud applause.

>>> The City of Pittsburgh, PA City Council, led by Doug Shields passed a resolution demanding the state enact a 1-year moratorium on gas drilling. Pittsburgh council unanimously passed a Ban on drilling in October. Said one councilman, "It's a battle between the industry and the community."

>>> The Most Hated Woman in Fort Worth was appointed to Chair of the United Way campaign in Tarrant (FW) County. Julie Wilson of Chesapeake Energy, aka: Maleficent, never met a charity she didn't want to taint with her dirty money tactics. Where's a cop when you need one? Oh, right. She owns the FW Police.

>>> The good people of Robson Ranch Resort Community in Denton County got their panties in a wad after an SOS email was sent about the threat of gas drilling in their fancy-dancy resort. When a couple of homeowners expressed concern about proposed gas wells near their high dollar estates I sent them a Gas Drilling Pollution 101 syllabus. When the mineral owner of the community got wind of my comments he organized a hail of nasty emails in my direction from a flock of pollution deniers. I haven't been called so many tacky names since Gene Powell attacked me in 2008. Here's the one that really hurt: %$#*@!&!!!


>>> Residents of Como, Fort Worth's historic, African-American community and the adjacent, upscale Ridglea neighborhood joined forces to deny Chesapeake Energy a gigantic pad-site that separates the neighborhoods. This kind of thing is rare as hen's teeth in FW. After a heated, racially-tinged battle, Chesapeake withdrew it's application to drill. Evil never dies so, I expect they will try again in 2011. Gird your loins, rabble-rousers!

>>> Peter Gorman of the Fort Worth Weekly covered another important story, The Barnett Keeps Bubbling, that updates the air quality controversy, especially the presence of elevated levels of formaldehyde at some gas well sites. Keep 'em coming, Peter.


>>> The Ruggiero clan of Wise County, Texas made big news when their 10-acre homestead was devalued from $257,330. to $75,240. by the Wise County Central Appraisal District one year after a gas drilling company set up shop on their land. Theirs is a classic Split Estate tragedy the likes of which is spreading around the country. Tim and Christine were able to tell their story on the CBS 60 Minutes program, shedding a little more light on the direct connection between drilling and property values.


>>> TXsharon Wilson led a north Texas contingent to the People's Oil & Gas Summit in Pittsburgh, PA. It was THE event of the season. The barn-burner speech by Deborah Rogers of Fort Worth got a standing ovation. You can find a PDF version on Sharon's website.

>>> Tim Ruggiero and DISH Mayor, Calvin Tillman announced the formation of ShaleTest, a non-profit environmental testing company. Their mission is to provide low-income individuals with professional testing of air, soil and water that has been impacted by gas drilling. I'm sure they are doing a brisk business.


>>> After years of being shamed for not doing the obvious, The City of Fort Worth announced the formation of an Air Quality Study Committee to determine if gas drilling operations might be a prob. The committee was tainted from Day One because gas drillers were allowed in BUT, the company hired to do the testing announced in November that emissions were indeed a problem in a least 68% of the drilling sites they studied. They expected only 10 -25%. WHOA! Even a Star-Telegram editorialist smelled a rat.

>>> CBS prime-time crime drama, CSI aired an explosive episode titled, FRACKED, about two men murdered just before exposing a natural gas company for poisoning residents in a farming town. Stranger things can and will happen in Shaleopolis. Two Thumbs WAY UP!!!

>>> Star-Telegram Business reporter, Jack Z. Smith studiously earned a Villain Award for 2010 with his incessant cheerleading of the gas drilling industry disguised as news reporting. Most notable were his endless reports of so-called, Monster Gas Wells. Jack's main source of info seems to be the notorious Gene Powell who himself is little more than an industry brown-nose. Obviously, Jack's "reports" reflect his and Powell's bias. The industry owes them, Big-Time.

>>> By contrast, the Fort Worth Weekly did another legitimate and masterful job of reporting on Barnett Shale-related issues. My fave was the Betty Brink-Jeff Prince piece, "Has Fort Worth Lost Its Moral Compass?" After observing the political and corporate shenanigan's over the last year I think we can safely turn that question into a statement. The Weekly earns another Hero Award for 2010.

>>> FWCanDo uncovered the little known fact that the City of Fort Worth is leasing office space from FW based gas driller, XTO Energy. The details of this incestuous relationship will shock you. Or maybe not.


>>> Your humble, irreverent servant received the 2010 Reader's Choice Award for Best Individual Defender of the Environment by the FW Weekly. I am indeed humbled by this honor. I was in good company, too, as Downwinders at Risk, NCTCA and EPA Region 6 Director, Dr. Al Armendariz were also recognized. Even the Maniacal Mayor Moncrief was a repeat winner: Politician most likely to sell Grandma to the highest bidder.

>>> In December, Mayor Moneycrief decided to take credit for cleaning up the air in Fort Worth. Skeptics laughed, knowing that he was just posturing for the mayor-council election in May 2011. We know the who the REAL Moncrief is. But in December, Moneycrief saw Manna from Heaven when an Atheist group rented space on the side of Fort Worth Transit Authority buses proclaiming, "Millions of American's are Good Without God."

Moneycrief salivated, realizing a political op had fallen in his lap. He then pressured the FWTA to ban such advertising. Voila! A few days later his wish was granted. To Hell with Censorship! Full speed ahead!!! Of course Moncrief didn't bat an eye when Chesapeake Energy connected gas drilling with heavenly angels on billboards and bus wraps all over town.

>>> 2010 ended the way it began with another round of notices listed in the FW Star-Telegram telling us that, "XXX Gas Driller will file with the Gas Well Inspector of the City of Fort Worth, an application to drill one or more wells, yadda, yadda, infinitum." These things are about as common and welcome as Death Notices.

>>> Finally, what do I see in the newspaper December 29, 2010? More Big News that Chesapeake, alone, drilled over 400 gas wells in north Texas in 2010. Today they announced they will drill at least 350 more new gas wells in 2011. It comforts me to learn that, the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are getting more dirty air. In the wise words of Pete Seeger: When will they ever learn?

Happy New Year from FWCanDo. Still Saying NO! to urban gas drilling, since 1993.