Monday, January 16, 2012

Putting the Cat Back in the Bag

When you cannot depend on those who are paid to protect you, you must protect yourself and your family.

A letter from former DISH Mayor, Calvin Tillman. Protector of THE PEOPLE.

YOU can't afford to miss it. Unless of course you have no skin in the game....

For those really smart people who think that everything is fine in Gasland, please let me know...I bet I could find you a great deal on a house with a compressor station in your back yard, because it is very easy to say things are fine, when you don't have any skin in the game.

Since the town of DISH released the results of the ambient air study in 2009, the oil and gas industry has worked overtime to put that cat back into the bag. They first attacked the consultant that conducted our study, and then came after me personally with numerous threats and frivolous public information requests. They also spent a tremendous amount of resources to find any angle to put a cloud of doubt around the study, although the lab results clearly showed a problem, and subsequent studies show similar results including those studies perform by the oil and gas industry themselves. This rhetoric did not stop at the industry public relations departments, but also went to the highest levels of government in the State of Texas. Our state wide elected Railroad Commissioners can be heard on public record regurgitating the same vile comments that the industry groups were spewing, all working in collusion to make this little problem go away.

Once the Town of DISH started to get attention worldwide from this air study, the industry worked even harder to cloud the truth. Through my research it is apparent that the oil and gas industry will dispute any and all actions that cost the industry money, even likely spending more money to dispute the facts than accept responsibility and correcting the problem. Although, if they would show even one ounce of responsibility, it would pay huge dividends to their public image. One example of this propaganda is the AskChesapeake (CHK) website. Before the town of DISH air study was made public, there was a section of this website that admitted to the release of many of the chemicals found in DISH, and other areas, including the carcinogen benzene. The site indicated that these chemicals were tightly regulated by numerous state and federal agencies. When the DISH study was released, it became apparent that these sites weren't quite as regulated as Chesapeake (CHK) had indicated. Therefore, shortly after the release of the DISH air study, which had Chesapeake's (CHK) name all over it, that section of their website disappeared, and was replaced with a page that basically said " a little benzene exposure is ok".

The industry also likes to deflect blame from themselves by pointing out other industries that pollute. They act as though bad behavior by others makes it alright for them to do it. I have heard that there have been idle threats aimed at municipalities from Chesapeake, stating that if air testing was accomplished at any of their facilities, they would hire a firm to test the air around some of the area's largest employers. Hmmm, didn't see that advertised on AskChesapeake.

Now when traveling to make presentations around the country, I carry a library of air studies, and numerous photos from around the country. I explain these studies and photos during my presentation, because I know by now that someone will accuse me of dramatizing these issues. The industry would much rather show a photo of a little deer running in front of a drilling rig, than an aerial view of DISH, or better yet, the satellite images that show thousands of large well pad sites. That makes it a little difficult for them to say that there will only be a few wells here and there, and the land will be returned to its original condition. Therefore, the group of paid liars, show up and video my presentation, trying to find something to take out of context and use against me. They then write some hack piece on their websites that are only read by those looking to get paid by the industry, and that makes the band of thugs applaud.

Another issue that follows the same pattern is the small community of Dimock, PA. A private water well actually exploded and yet now the claim is that everything is fine, again trying to put the cat back in the bag. Anyone who has visited the affected people in Dimock, know that everything is not fine, but rather still quite a mess. But the state agency designed to protect the people of Pennsylvania are also working in collusion with the oil and gas industry. This agency has allowed the industry to stop delivering fresh water to those whose water wells are tainted by the irresponsible activities of others. With these sort of actions, does anyone wonder why people are moving out of Gasland? When you cannot depend on those who are paid to protect you, you must protect yourself and your family. None of us are in this position because of our own doing, or because we want to be.

There have been numerous university studies that have attempted to validate the industry's stories. Whether it deals with health impacts, or economic impacts, if they are funded by the industry, they always paint a rosy picture. While typically those who perform studies that are not funded by the industry, typically tell a different story, and if the story is not rosy, it is attacked. In the industries eyes only the studies they fund are valid, and not too many studies show a rosy picture if they are not industry funded. There have been numerous air studies accomplished throughout the Barnett Shale. First there was the DISH Study, that was followed up by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality testing, then the industry performed a study, and lastly the City of Fort Worth perform a study. If looking at only the lab results, all of the studies have very similar findings. There were the same chemicals detected and at levels above the Effects Screening Levels, including benzene that was detected in all of the studies. Frankly, some of the benzene levels found in the other areas were much worse than those found in DISH. However, the study in DISH indicated that there might be a problem with being exposed to benzene, while the other studies indicated that being exposed to a little benzene was ok, and when the levels were very high, they stated that they were being corrected. Although the lab results showed problem, the press release said everything was rosy. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality actually lied to the public about their test results, and had a subsequent internal ethics investigation that showed how this organization intentionally misled the public when they stated that they had not detected benzene in eight air samples, when results showed that half of the samples had elevated benzene levels. No one was ever held accountable for this intentional misleading of the public.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) even came to DISH to take blood and urine samples. This showed several elevated chemicals in the blood and urine of over half of the households, and most of those chemicals had been found to be produced by the compressor station; however, the TDSHS said things like household chemicals and smoking caused the elevated levels, when only four of the twenty seven people tested actually smoked. I was one of the ones who gave samples for the test, and along with 2/3 of those tested, I had toluene in my system. The TDSHS blamed this exposure on my commute, which I had not accomplished in 72 hours, and the half life for toluene is said to be 4 hours. During the meeting where they presented this information, there were several questions posed that the TDSHS could not answer, such as what the number of men vs women that were tested, were there different results in men vs women, how far did each person live from a well or compressor site, did those who lived closer to wells or compressors have higher exposure than those living further away. After it became apparent that the person responsible did not do an effective study, she admitted that this was not a scientific study, and that it should not be looked at as such (you can find the presentation on youtube). However, it has been treated and touted as the smoking gun that things are fine...nothing to see here . There have even been those in academia who have supported this study after it was admittedly flawed, while both the university professors, and the TDSHS are both paid by the State of Texas, where negative talk about the oil and gas industry is not tolerated. Consequently, the governor, who has never had a real job, made a run for President of the United States due to his support from the oil and gas industry, although that is not working out to well for him.

I do not have PhD that follows my name, nor am any kind of scientist, doctor,or lawyer. I admittedly do not understand things like climate change or global warming, but I do believe that I have a little common sense, and I have a lot of smart people that consult me. Therefore, when the benzene level goes up, so does the risk of someone getting cancer, and my children waking up to massive nosebleeds is not normal. Since moving from DISH 9 months ago my children have not suffered one nosebleed in the middle of the night. So although I am not a scientist, and can't explain why my children were getting nosebleeds, or why the noxious odors gave me a headache and a sore throat, I know I feel better now, have a lot more energy, and that moving out of Gasland was a smart move for me and my family. For those really smart people who think that everything is fine in Gasland, please let me know...I bet I could find you a great deal on a house with a compressor station in your back yard, because it is very easy to say things are fine, when you don't have any skin in the game.

Calvin Tillman
Former Mayor, DISH, TX

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