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North Texas Town Takes on Gas Operators

The mayor of DISH, TX, has sent a letter to five natural gas operators asking them to cease operations to eliminate an odor at a gas compression station that has spread throughout "the entire community" and may be endangering citizens' health.

Calvin Tillman, mayor of the small North Texas town, sent a letter earlier this month to executives at Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s pipeline subsidiary Texas Midstream Gas Services LLC, Enbridge Holdings LLC, Energy Transfer Partners LP, Crosstex Energy Services GP LLC and Atmos Pipeline-Texas.

DISH, which had 181 residents in the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report, previously was named Clark, but in exchange for renaming the town in 2005, all of the residents received free basic television service for 10 years and a free digital video recorder from DISH Network. Several gas gathering pipelines converge at the town's southern boundary where gas from the Barnett Shale is prepared for commercial markets.

Tillman's three-page letter to the gas operators detailed "the town's repeated complaints of odor surrounding the natural gas compression station that your respective companies own and operate in and around the town of DISH...The odor can now be described as a sulphur smell, and causes various respiratory irritations to many in the community."

Because the companies failed to take action after town officials complained, DISH officials hired Wolf Eagle Environmental to complete an independent air study, which was provided to the companies, Tillman said. "The study has shown some extremely concerning results including the presence of known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Subsequent studies have been performed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality [TCEQ] and have validated these concerns."

In a preliminary report, the TCEQ said wastewater at some sites across the Barnett Shale's 17-county region has been found to contain several volatile organic compounds (VOC), including benzene (see related story). One air sample taken downwind from a tank seven miles west of DISH showed a benzene level of 1,000 parts per billion (ppb), which is more than five times the TCEQ's short-term exposure limit of 180 ppb.

"Therefore, I must ask your companies to cease and desist operations at this facility until such time as you can guarantee the safety of the citizens who live near the site," Tillman wrote to the companies. "I would also ask that you take your responsibility as corporate citizens seriously, and make a valid effort to determine the source of these toxins and correct the deficiency."

Tillman said the companies' "performance" in the community "is unacceptable. You have not been the good neighbor that you have promised..."

In response, Chesapeake said the "TCEQ is conducting further testing, and Chesapeake supports their efforts in obtaining more accurate and complete information regarding current emissions in the Barnett, and is awaiting those test results..."

The TCEQ's final report is expected by January, but it could be released in December, said state officials. TCEQ inspectors also are planning another study in the spring in the Barnett Shale area to determine emission sources and rates, as well as their environmental impact.

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