Dish, Texas Takes on Barnett Shale Fracking, Names Six Companies in Lawsuit

The people of Dish, Texas are fed up with natural gas drilling in the Barnett shale, and what it’s done to their community. The small Denton County town, home to 200 residents and 60 natural gas wells, has filed suit against six natural gas or pipeline companies, claiming compressor stations associated with hydraulic fracturing operations in the area are ruining the town’s air. Just last month, Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman announced he was leaving his government job and the town itself over concerns that fracking in the Barnett shale was ruining his family’s health.

Tillman’s family isn’t the only one in Dish – known as the “Grand Central Station of the Barnett Shale” – that may be suffering because of fracking-related problems. The Associated Press has reported that other Dish residents have complained of nosebleeds, pain, and poor circulation since the first compressor station was built in their town in 2005. The air around Dish was found to contain high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. While no one has been able to prove a direct connection, Tillman and others in Dish believe natural gas drilling is to blame.

Tillman was among the people featured in the Oscar-nominated HBO documentary “GasLand”, in which he was seen talking of his fears that someone would accidently “blow up the town” someday. The mayor has been crusading to protect air and water in Dish from fracking since 2007.

The new Dish lawsuit targets Atmos Energy Corp., Crosstex North Texas Gathering LP, Enbridge Gathering LP, Energy Transfer Fuel LP, Texas Midstream Gas Services LLC and Enterprise Texas Pipeline LLC., according to the Denton Record-Chronicle. All of the companies run a network of natural gas compressors and pipelines in Dish. Compressor stations use huge engines to drive pumps that are used to move natural gas through the pipelines.

In addition to the town’s lawsuit, two others have been filed against the same companies by other Dish property owners.

According to the Star-Telegram, the town’s lawsuit calls the compressor stations “a public nuisance.” It also alleges that the compressor stations have harmed the emotional and financial well-being of the community. All of the lawsuits claim the plaintiffs are entitled to collect monetary damages from the gas companies because of diminished property values. None of the lawsuits claim any personal injuries.

“We think this is really our only option,” Mayor Tillman said Wednesday, according to the Record-Chronicle. “We’ve tried to be patient and work with these companies, and we tried to be patient with the state regulatory agencies to do something about it. Nothing has really greatly improved.”

“We should not have to go to this length simply to protect ourselves and our property,” he continued. “It is just horrible how little private property rights we have in Texas, where we’re supposed to have private property rights.”

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