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Texas Town, Residents Suing Over Barnett Midstream Emissions

The town of DISH, TX, and some of its residents are suing several midstream energy companies, claiming that noise and pollution from nearby natural gas compression and related facilities have eroded property values and hindered economic development in the town of about 200 residents, which is named after a satellite television service provider.

DISH Mayor Calvin Tillman -- who recently said he is leaving office and moving about 25 miles away to escape the consequences of Barnett Shale development -- said the companies could have avoided the lawsuits if they would have been "responsible corporate citizens."

Tillman told NGI's Shale Daily that he is not anti-drilling. He just wants the companies to take advantage of technology that could mitigate the noise and emissions from their operations. "We're not against this industry..." he said. "We do want them to keep their stuff on their side of the fence... emissions, noise and that sort of stuff."

In one complaint DISH is suing Atmos Energy Corp., Crosstex North Texas Gathering LP, Enbridge Gathering (North Texas) LP, Energy Transfer Fuel LP, Texas Midstream Gas Services LLC and Enterprise Texas Pipeline LLC. In two other complaints private citizens also are suing.

The cases revolve around compressor stations and other facilities. One station was constructed by Energy Transfer Fuel in 2005 and later sold to Atmos Energy and is known as the Ponder Compressor Station. It lies adjacent to the town but not in the town proper, according to the complaints.

"Harmful substances are released into the air from the Ponder Compressor Station, which are dangerous, offensive, inconvenient and annoying to persons with normal sensibilities in the Town of DISH," the complaints read. "These substances include toxic hydrocarbons such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, which are condensed at this facility and measurable amounts are emitted from this facility."

The complaints state that benzene is a known carcinogen and the other emissions present health worries as well. "These facts are a constant concern to the Town of DISH."

The DISH complaint asserts that the town is losing revenue of at least $15,000 per year due to erosion of property values and the tax base.

A complaint filed on behalf of eight families alleges that each has suffered a loss of market value of land of at least $75,000 per household. "Plaintiffs seek to recover damages for injury to personal property...in an amount of at least $50,000 per household," the complaint reads. "Further, plaintiffs seek damages for each and every trespass as alleged herein and damages for mental anguish associated with defendants trespass for an amount of $1,000 per day per household." A third complaint, filed on behalf of one couple, seeks damages of at least $150,000.

Plaintiffs' attorney Kirk Claunch told NGI's Shale Daily that the natural gas infrastructure buildout in DISH "stopped development in that little town...When you start bringing in in the oil and gas industry -- and really any kind of heavy industrial work like that into a residential setting -- it's going to do one thing: it's going to hurt the property values of those people living right around it."

An Enbridge spokesperson said the company wouldn't comment on pending litigation.

Enterprise would not comment either except to say, "...[T]here is an important distinction to be made regarding our infrastructure in the area. We do not have any compressor facilities and our above-ground equipment is limited to one valve site, so our footprint is minimal, relative to the size of the area in question."

Atmos said it had not been served with the lawsuit. "Atmos Energy has worked diligently to assure that its facility at DISH operates well within environmental regulations to protect public health, and company officials have met with DISH Mayor Tillman on a number of occasions to try to resolve any issues," the company said. "We believe the city's pending lawsuit against Atmos Energy is baseless, and we will defend ourselves vigorously in court."

Others could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comment.

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