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Personal account from the Barnett Shale

In 20
10, Calvin Tillman and Tim Ruggiero founded SHALETEST to collect environmental data around natural gas facilities and operations, anywhere natural gas drilling was occurring throughout the United States.

On October 13, 2011, former resident and mayor of DISH Texas shared an update after moving out of DISH, Texas, off the Barnett shale. Calvin Tillman tells how he moved his family 25-miles away to another area of Texas to protect his family's health. Other updates will appear on this page from time to time.



January 21, 2012

To those of you who have children, you have no doubt seen the movie, The Jungle Book.  In this movie the villain is played by the dreaded tiger Shere Khan.  Shere Khan was feared by all in the land except for the young child Mogli, who exposed Shere Khan's weakness, which was fire.  Shere Khan was of course what we call a paper tiger, which appears to be powerful, but is actually powerless and ineffective.

When I started dealing with the natural gas industry, I was initially intimidated by the size and wealth of the industry.  I soon learned that negotiating with them in this frame of mind, I would come up short.  The industry is poised to prey on those who are intimidated by them, and I had began to hear a number of horror stories regarding the industry and how they would threaten and intimidate those who would dare to question them.  Frankly, I found the initial approach to be friendly... friendly like a car salesman, not friendly like neighbor.  However, after being sold a bad used car a couple of times, you quickly learn that maybe you should question what is going on.  That is when you start seeing the threats begin; first the sales pitch, and then the threats. 

When growing up everyone had to deal with a bully.  Maybe is was the ugly kid at school whose parents didn't like them much and who never learned to get their way without using force.  But, eventually the skinny kid punches them in the nose, and the secret is out that they bleed like everyone else.  The skinny kid does that when it seems likely the only option.  If you figure out that you are going to get your butt kicked either way, you may as well go down swinging and this is when the paper tiger's weakness gets exposed. 

This is very similar to the story in DISH.  At some point we knew that there would be nothing left if we did not make a stand; nothing more than an eventual statistic.  We went through the sales pitch from the paid liars, and the constant threats from the industry sociopaths.  I knew we were likely going to lose, but why not go down fighting?  I quickly learned that this industry was nothing more than a paper tiger, and began finding and exploiting their weaknesses.  I found with a little strategy, it does not take much to get ahead of this industry. 

I like playing chess, and compare this little battle to playing chess with a checkers player.  They have employed the same strategy for so long, that they do not have the ability to try something different.  Everyone who plays chess is familiar with the four move checkmate; however, the four move checkmate works every time on those who work in this industry.  I have told them on a number of occasions that I have two advantages over them, the first being that they get paid for this...I don't, and the second being that when they were snuggled into bed I would be lying awake staring at the ceiling thinking about my next move.  Many times I got only a blank stare at this comment, kinda like the lights are on, but no one is home look. 

Many of the people I have spoken with feel like they are behind they industry and always reacting and catching up to them.  However, I think that it is imperative to make the industry react and catch up to you.  When they are getting ready to make a move, they must consider what you will do.  They must make your reaction a part of their plan.  Through my dealings with the industry, it is apparent that the plan that they employ is very simple, they lie, they bully, and when that doesn't work, they get the laws changed so that one of the other tactics works better next time, then they wonder why nobody likes them. 

It has come to my attention that the industry is trying the bully tactic on some of my friends made through my travels around the United States.  They apparently have stooped to the level of stalking and intimidating people.  This is happening from Texas to Pennsylvania to people who are only trying to live the American Dream, and having that dream stolen by this industry.  I have had a number of people call me and caution me about being so vocal on the industry.  Many have been worried about my safety and I certainly appreciate the thoughtfulness of these warnings, but you must know by now that I am not afraid of the paper tiger.

Just like the skinny kid that bloodies the bullies nose, you have have to figure you are going to get your butt kicked either way, so why not put up a fight.  This has helped improve the situation in DISH, and it will help you as well.  When we have meetings in DISH, and the industry showed up, I asked them to let me know so that I could hire private security to insure their protection.  Typically, they stand in the back of the room, staring at their shoes, and only speak when spoken to, I think they may actually have left their vehicles running in the parking lot for a quick escape.  You see in DISH, we were not intimidated, but rather the industry was intimidated by us; in DISH we controlled the situation.  Many of the state regulatory agencies also have been put in their place by the angry mob in DISH. 

There always seems to be one industry person who draws the short straw and has to attend one of my presentations.  They are easy to spot and do not wish for me to know their identity.  I always try to sneak up on them and introduce myself.  I have to sneak up on them, because if they see me coming, they will avoid the meeting.  If I do manage to introduce myself, you can see the uncomfortableness of the individual as I shake their hand, making sure to squeeze their hand just enough to get their attention, and I have already told several to watch the exchange to see the reaction from the paper tiger. Many may say that I am using my notoriety to intimidate them and therefore I am no better than them.  I do this for a reason, and that is to show those who invited me exactly how weak those in this industry are.

There have also been reports that some are intimidated by none other than their own neighbors, who are apparently disappointed that they have not signed the lease and are "stopping progress". I have already spoken about the "gold rush" scenario, so I won't go into that.  But nonetheless, there are those who feel that it is only you that are preventing them from fulfilling their lifelong goal of being rich.  They have not managed to get rich with all of their other schemes, but this is the one that will finally work.  Not realizing that they are doing nothing more than helping a guy in Oklahoma make payments on his NBA arena and is wine collection.  They have just been taken advantage of one more time, and they don't even know it, and they will likely end up as broke as they are now.

I am not suggesting violence, or anything that could be interpreted as that.  What I am suggesting is to stand up and deal with this problem.  When politicians take away our rights for the benefit of this industry, let's show them the door.  When the industry tries the techniques I have described, expose them for what they are.  If they stalk you, get photos, videos, and expose them for what they are doing, send this information to me and others who can expose these sort of actions. Don't let their threatening emails and message go unnoticed.  Call the authorities, call the media, or call me.  You will find very quickly that you are dealing with a paper tiger, the intimidation will stop immediately.  And this message is also for those in the industry, it is your people that are taking these tactics, and it is your responsibility to help prevent it.  A little advice for those in the industry, if you don't want to be treated like a scumbag...don't be a scumbag.

Calvin Tillman 
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"


Moving off the Shale
October 13, 2011

It has now been over seven months since me and my family moved from DISH, TX.  Since that time it has become more and more apparent that we made the right choice to move.  Since moving from DISH, my children have not experienced the periodic nosebleeds that they had while living there, and we have been able to enjoy being outside at our home without the noxious odors.  It is amazing how you miss things like opening your windows on a nice day to let a breeze blow through your home.  This has taken a tremendous burden off of the entire family.  Being that moving was such a difficult decision; it brings us peace with the decision we made.  Looking back, we were blessed that we got out of that situation in the manner that we did.  I think it is difficult for those who have never been in this situation to understand exactly how difficult that decision was to make.  However in hindsight, it is apparent that we were the lucky ones. 

Calvin Tillman

Traveling around and talking to various people, I have found that there are many others in the same position that we found ourselves in; however, getting out for most is not as easy.  There are many people who are struggling with the decision on whether they should stay in their homes or move away.  However, sometimes that decision can have multiple consequences.  Once someone is put in this situation, selling their home, even at a massive loss can be difficult if not impossible.  So foreclosure is the only option available for some folks to get out of the situation that they have put in, which in many cases is through no fault of their own.  Unfortunately, foreclosure is not the end of it, because after that, your credit will be ruined and all the money invested will be lost, not to mention being able to find another place to live. 

I am unsure how a situation like this can occur in America, but it has on numerous occasions and keeps repeating itself.  There have been so many who has lost everything because of this situation.  These are honest hardworking, taxpaying Americans who have worked hard and saved to buy a home, and spent their life savings on the home of their dreams, only to see that dream be taken away by an energy company that could not care less about the impacts they are making on someone’s life.  They are forced to deal with exposure to hazardous chemicals, tainted water, and noxious odors that prevent them from peaceful enjoying the home of their dreams and threaten their children’s health.  They are faced with decisions that an American should not have to be faced with. 

We were also fortunate that we lived close enough to the edge of the Barnett Shale, that we could move off of the shale without needing to switch jobs, and maintain key relationships.  Many are not in a similar position, for them to move off of their prospective shale, or other formation, they would need to move several hundred miles away to escape.  So you are then left to wonder where exactly you could move to get out of your situation, and what you may do when you get there.  Scenarios such as this prevent families from leaving a bad situation.  Therefore, they continue to live in a home, where the air or water may be tainted because there is simply no good option to move elsewhere.

The stories that I hear over and over again and again, seem to get worse and worse.  Every time I hear one of these stories, I tell myself that this is as bad as it can possible get; only to hear one that is worse.  I am a grown man that has stood toe to toe with very powerful politicians and a very powerful industry, but these stories break me.  I look at the small children at these homes, and wonder about their future, how will their lives be impacted by all of this, and think about my own children, who we tried to buffer from all this.  I thought we had been successful, until I recently heard my son talking about us moving because of the “stinky compressor station”.  His life has certainly been altered because of this as well. 

This is an aspect of this subject that is not discussed often enough, and the number of people who are affected in this manner continues to grow.  There are so many that are wanting out of their current situation, and have no viable options to make that happen.  Therefore, they are stuck in a situation that perhaps is negatively affecting their health and or the health of their children.  To those of you out there in this position, I hear your voice and only wish I could do more to help you.

Calvin Tillman
Former Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"



Blood and Urine Analysis for Chemical Inhalants


Pam Judy's story

Calvin Tillman's Blog
Compressor stations

Tim Ruggiero/Calvin Tillman YouTube

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