As North Carolina lawmakers prepare to pass a bill as soon as this week legalizing fracking for natural gas, they got a visit from a former Texas mayor who shared his cautionary tale about the serious problems the industry brought to his small town.
Calvin Tillman was elected mayor of Dish, Texas — a community of about 200 residents 25 miles north of Fort Worth — in 2007, at a time when fracking was booming in the area. Dish sits atop the Barnett Shale, which is one of the largest natural gas fields in the United States. Ten massive pipelines run through the town, carrying about a billion cubic feet of gas per day.
Tillman spent much of his time in office fighting to regulate the gas companies, which transformed his once-quiet community into a noisy, polluted industrial center. He finally moved away last year after his two young sons began waking in the middle of the night with severe nosebleeds that the family believes were related to toxic air emissions from the drilling operations.
Before Tillman left, he offered to rent his home to a gas company executive so they could see what it was like to live in the industry’s midst.
“None took me up on it,” he says.
Tillman, who appeared in the award-winning fracking documentary “Gasland,” now works with a nonprofit group he founded called ShaleTest, which does environmental testing for lower-income families and communities affected by natural gas drilling. He visited North Carolina this week to talk about his experiences, meeting with about a dozen state lawmakers.
“I want to let everybody know there’s more to this than they’re being told by the industry,” he says.