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The Paper Tiger

By Calvin Tillman

January 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"

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Leaving Gasland

By Tim Ruggiero

January 4, 2012 - Our ordeal living in Gasland has ended. All I can say about it, and all I care to say about it, is that “The matter has been resolved”. Read into that how you will, I'll say no more about it.

As my family and our animals begin our new life in Pilot Point, TX, where the air is clean, and the water supply free of drilling chemicals, I have been fielding a number of calls and emails about our new life. "So, you're moving?"..yes. "You sell your house?"...yes. "Who did you sell your house to?..*.the matter has been resolved.* "Oh". Someone asked if I felt we had ‘won or lost’, obviously looking for details. That got me to thinking.

Regardless of where one lives in Gasland, whether it is the urban setting or rural, I'm hard pressed to say that there is no such thing as 'winning,' only degrees of losing;

When the drillers first show up, one loses any sense or belief one has about personal property rights. One learns the hard way the definition of ‘split estate’, and that somewhere along the line, someone decided that mineral rights trump all other rights, including any one thought they had according to the U.S. Constitution.

When the constant noise comes, with the 24/7 screech of the rig brakes on pipe, stadium lighting blinding, huge plumes of diesel exhaust, non-stop semi truck traffic at all hours of the day and strange workmen tramping around just a few feet from one’s home, one tends to lose faith; Not in God, but in the State. The very same agencies- the TCEQ, TRRC, and even the EPA to a large extent- are either unwilling or unable to help anyone.

View out the Ruggiero's kitchen window during drilling
View out the kitchen window during drilling

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are people appointed by the Gashole Governor, and he’s all for tearing up the entire state of Texas, if need be, to keep the gas flowing; the Commissioners have their marching orders, and they are loyal soldiers.

The Texas Railroad Commission, the chief regulatory agency of oil and gas in Texas, couldn’t be more corrupt; every one of them, led by conflict- of- interest Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones, sees their job as promoting oil and gas development, not actually regulating it. Commissioner David Porter refers to people like me as ‘unsatisfied landowners’. He is absolutely correct; I couldn’t be more unsatisfied with the TRRC’s lack of knowledge, ability or desire to help the very same people they are supposed to be protecting. The lack of enforcement actions and denial of the few enforcement actions on rare recommendation is proof enough of that.

Chairman Jones uses her position to testify before U.S. Congress, extolling all the so-called ‘benefits’ of natural gas development, and denies any water contamination is due to hydraulic fracturing. Her testimony was an appalling display pandering for congressional support in her then run for U.S. Senate. Perhaps she’s merely splitting hairs, as she has recently acknowledged reports of ground water contamination due to surface spills.

This distinction brings little comfort to those with contaminated water, where testing results shows drilling chemicals in their drinking water.

When the drilling is complete, and the production begins, one loses any sense of well being and suffers from ill health effects. The gas emissions are constant, and the equipment is often faulty. If one complains enough, the driller will install a flare and then burn those gases instead of just releasing them into the air. In doing so, the drillers will credit themselves for ‘improving’ the air quality, although it’s simply trading one emission for another. There’s nothing ‘safer’ or ‘better’ about these emissions. When one complains to the TCEQ, they will conduct an air sample.

If the sampling proves to be above limits, the TCEQ will say their equipment is faulty. When the sampling is below limits, then they say it’s ‘acceptable’ and ‘within EPA guidelines’.  It makes little difference that one’s exposure to Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylenes were ZERO prior to the drilling. And diesel exhaust? TCEQ does not measure that.

When the production falls, and it falls fast, losing as much as 50% or more within the first year, the drillers bring in a compressor station or two. (Or FIFTEEN, like Chesapeake is attempting in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Fort Worth) One loses any sense of tranquility and peace and sleep, as the noise is loud and constant. The compressors emit not only a loud noise, but also low frequency vibration. Is it truly unknown the cause of acoustic vibrostic disease in people who do not work in an industry where this occurs, but only because they live next to compressor stations?

When one has thoroughly exhausted all potential remedies- the TCEQ, TRRC, County Commissioners and Judges, County Sheriff, EPA, U.S. Senators and Congressmen, Texas State Senators and Congressmen , one realizes there’s only two choices about the future; One can stay and risk their health and that of their children, put a strain on their marriage and relationship with their children, or they can leave and risk their credit. The decision is not easy, but there really is only one choice; One has to leave, as credit can always be repaired, health cannot. When children have sudden unexplained nosebleeds, that’s the huge flag waving that says it’s time to go, get out now.

So we have left Gasland, and life begins anew. We cannot get back what we have lost over the last two years, but we are, by the grace of God, able to start over away from Gasland. I can say that our ordeal has strengthened my faith in God, solidified my marriage, and given me the opportunity to spend time with my daughter instead of fighting with elected and appointed officials, filing public information requests, and losing sleep over what catastrophe will come next. I look forward to videotaping my daughter’s swim meets, not the next spill, leak or tank venting.

Leaving Gasland is not winning, it’s merely an end to losing. I will continue my work with Shaletest, continue on speaking tours, both with Mayor Calvin Tillman and perhaps occasionally without, and I will continue to speak out for those who have been negatively impacted by natural gas well development.

Tim Ruggiero
Pilot Point, TX

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