Calvin Tillman

Thu, 2013-12-05 06:00Julie Dermansky
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Welcome to Gasland: Denton, Texas Residents Face Fracking Impacts From EagleRidge Energy

In Denton, Texas, 40 miles northwest of Dallas, residents and students at the University of North Texas are getting a free course in what it’s like to live in the middle of a fracking field. 

Although Denton officials created an ordinance mandating that fracking sites be at least 1,200 feet from homes, sites with gas wells already in place are exempt from the new rule. Some are less than 200 feet away from homes. Since Denton is full of existing drill pads, many find themselves living in the shadow of a fracking installation that exposes them to chemicals, noise and bright lights.

Rebekah Hinojosa, a student at the university, is no stranger to industrial pollution. She grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, near the U.S./ Mexican border, home to two Superfund sites.


Rebekah at an EagleRidge fracking site near the Denton Airport ©2013 Julie Dermansky

Still, Hinojosa had a rude awakening when she learned the university permitted fracking on campus.

Thu, 2012-09-27 13:58Steve Horn
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Regulatory Non-Enforcement by Design: Earthworks Shows How the Game is Played

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project published a scathing 124-page report this week, “Breaking All the Rules: the Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement.”

The content of the report is exactly as it sounds.

That is, state-level regulatory agencies and officials often aren't doing the jobs taxpayers currently pay them to do and aren't enforcing regulations on active oil and gas wells even when required to under the law.

This is both out of neglect and also because they're vastly understaffed and underfunded, meaning they literally don't have the time and/or resources to do proper inspections.

And on those rare instances when regulatory agencies and the regulators that work for them do enforce regulations on active oil and gas wells, Earthworks demonstrated that the penalties for breaking the rules are currently so weak that it's merely been deemed a tiny “cost of doing business” by the oil and gas industry.

Fri, 2012-07-27 03:30Steve Horn
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Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Commonwealth Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway“ by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

Mon, 2012-05-14 11:47Brendan DeMelle
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Oil and Gas Industry Moves to Silence Critics

Shutterstock image by iodrakon

At an industry public relations conference last year, Michael Kehs of Chesapeake Energy described a Wall Street Journal op-ed to gathered oil and gas officials, saying it pointed out the industry's “credibility problem.”

“And I’m sure some of it relates to defensiveness,” Kehs added. (MP3 Audio

Small wonder.

For years, the oil and gas industry has adopted a war-like mentality towards its critics. When confronted with problems caused by drilling and fracking, instead of acknowledging them and working to prevent more, their approach has too often been to cover up the issues while attacking any critics who make problems known publicly.

This pattern has sharply accelerated in recent months.

Earlier this month, Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional administrator for the oil-and-gas rich states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, sent his letter of resignation to Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA. Mr. Armendariz had come under heavy fire over comments he made two years ago at a local government meeting in Texas. 

In explaining his law enforcement philosophy, he analogized his agency's strategy to the early Romans, who he said would “crucify” law-breakers to make examples of them. After a video of these remarks was circulated last week by Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, who counts the oil and gas industry as one of his largest donors, a firestorm of controversy broke out.

As Media Matters pointed out, when Mr. Armendariz said he intended to make an example of offenders, he was referring only to companies that actually broke the law – but this was not enough to save his career.

Thu, 2011-02-24 21:27Joanna Zelman
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Mayor Calvin Tillman Leaves Dish, Texas Fearing 'Fracking' Effects On Family's Health

Fearing for his children’s health, Mayor Calvin Tillman is leaving behind his government position and getting out of Dodge… or rather, Dish. Dish, Texas is a town consisting of 200 residents and 60 gas wells.

When Tillman’s sons repeatedly woke up in the middle of the night with mysterious nosebleeds, he knew it was time to move – even if it meant leaving his community behind.

In an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post, Mayor Tillman reveals that when it came down to family or politics, the choice wasn’t a tough one to make.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

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