Shale test: The white-hatted Texan returns

April 1, 2011
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Three days short of a year after appearing in Williamsport before a crowd of over 200 area residents to inform them of potential health-related problems with gas development, Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish,Texas, is coming back with help for some who may be negatively impacted.  Tillmanand fellow Texan Tim Ruggierro recently founded Shale Test, a non-profit organization, to provide environmental testing on water, soil, and air.

ShaleTest’s mission is to “provide lower income and compromised individuals with environmental testing of their drinking water,air, and soil that might have been impacted by natural gas development. Our testing involves analyzing and measuring these elements for the presence of natural gas development fluids or associated chemicals and compounds.We also provide the public with educational awareness of the dangers associated with natural gas development.”

Last year Tillman, at his own expense, spent most of his vacation time touring around Texas, the northeast, and other regions with shale gas development, informing the public of problems faced in his community and in others. While doing so he saw“a real weakness in the availability of quality environmental testing across the United States to all families, especially in lower income areas. ShaleTest will level the playing field for these people.”

Co-founder and Wise County, Texas,property owner Tim Ruggierro states, “I have seen firsthand what negative impacts natural gas development has had on our air,water, soil, and even our property values. I have also seen the unwillingness to address these issues and the political game-playing and foot-dragging from our local and federal level politicians and protection agencies to assist any of us.

“We cannot allow our quest for energy to outweigh our need for clean air and water. Mayor Tillman and I formed this nonprofit group to do what the very same agencies that have sworn to protect us simply refuse to do.”
Sharon Wilson, Organizer for Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project and known in the blogosphere as “Texas Sharon” of the blog“Bluedaze,” is a board member of ShaleTest.Wilson explained the fundamental problem nationwide. “Currently it is up to citizens to prove harm rather than industry to prove lack of harm, and it is now clear that state regulations do not protect public health. With enough data we can shift that burden back to those who profit and hold them accountable for their irresponsible operations.”

ShaleTest plans to fund air and water tests through donations and grants and focus much of their efforts on low-income areas where residents can’t afford testing. A major goal of the initiative is to test in areas before drilling begins so homeowners have a baseline against which to compare the air and water afterward.

With sudden well-water problems appearing as far as four miles from drilling operations in nearby Bradford County, two houses blown up from methane accumulation in McKean County, and drilling companies currently being required to offer to pre-test water wells only up to 1,000 feet from a new Marcellus gas well in Pennsylvania, there may be many qualified property owners in the area who want to take advantage of ShaleTest’s assistance.

The Responsible Drilling Alliance sponsored Tillman’s lecture last April, “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?”, and will be sponsoring this event at the Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department’s Social Hall on Wednesday,April 27, at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free and all are welcome to hear Mayor Tillman andRuggierro’s experiences with gas development in the Barnett Shale and to learn the specifics of the ShaleTest program from a potential service user, donor, or volunteer’s perspective.

Ralph Kisberg is a founding member and Treasurer of the Responsible Drilling Alliance www.responsibledrillingalliance.org.  The opinions expressed in this piece are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the RDA.

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