Texas mayor warns Kasich about fracking pitfalls

By MARC KOVAC Dix Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- The former mayor of a small Texas town is warning Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers to beware the fracking pitfalls his community has experienced.

"There is going to be some impact," said Calvin Tillman, formerly of Dish, Texas. "Even at best, you have an industrialized area and you have ... the truck traffic and the heavy equipment and the noise and odors and the dust and things like that. At worst, you have people who have contaminated water wells and you have air pollution from these treatment facilities and these compression stations and these condensate tanks that leak and things like that."

He added, "The question would be, do you want what has happened to us to happen to you? And if not, then what are you going to do to prevent that?"

Tillman and Dish, a community of about 200 people located near Dallas, were featured in the documentary "Gasland," a movie about the dangers horizontal hydraulic fracturing that is frequently cited by state lawmakers and others who oppose fracking.

Tillman spoke to reporters at the Ohio Statehouse Friday, Jan. 27, during a stop in Columbus.

Horizontal fracturing is an emerging method of extracting oil and gas that involves pumping large volumes of water and chemicals into underground shale formations.

Proponents say fracking will increase energy production in the state, add funds to the state coffers and promote job creation and economic growth in drilling-related industries. They also say that hydraulic fracturing has been in use in the state and country for decades and is safe thanks to existing regulations.

But opponents want a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until adequate safeguards are in place to protect the environment. Such calls have increased in recent weeks, given seismic activity in the Youngtown area that could be tied to an injection well used to dispose of waste fluids from oil and gas production.

Kasich has said repeatedly that his administration is working to ensure Ohio has the regulations in place to protect the environment. He has mentioned the possibility of impact fees to help communities cover roadwork and other costs associated with the industry. He has also said he does not want Ohio's regulatory environment to be so extreme that it drives the fracking industry away.

"We can have economic success in hydraulic fracturing and at the same time be able to preserve the environment," Kasich told reporters in Columbus earlier this week. "It cannot be a choice of one or the other. And I made it clear to the big companies, almost all of whom I've talked with, you get this right."

Tillman said horizontal hydraulic fracturing has been in use in and around Dish for more than a decade, with 20 or so production wells within the community and 50-60 within a half mile of its borders. With those wells have come pipelines, compression stations and gas treatment facilities.

"Every single place I've been to says we have the regulation infrastructure to take care of this. If I had a nickel for every time someone has told me that, I'd be rich because I hear it everywhere, and I have yet to see it prevent a lot of the things that you hear about."

Tillman urged state officials to thoroughly research the industry in advance, including environmental groups and others in those discussions.

"Am I coming up here to tell you to do this or not to do this? Absolutely not," he said. "That's a decision that people in Ohio have to make. I can tell you what happened in Dish, and you can make that decision based on trying to figure out the entire story."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. E-mail him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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