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Texas Mayor Speaks Against Oil Extraction
updated: Aug 01, 2014, 10:45 AM

By Arlo Bender-Simon

Former Mayor Of Dish, Texas Speaks Out Against The Expansion Of High-Risk Oil Extraction 

Warns Santa Barbara County Of What’s To Come If Measure P Fails

A former mayor from Denton County, Texas came to speak in Santa Maria this past Friday. Calvin Tillman knows firsthand what happens when the fossil fuel industry is allowed to rapidly expand drilling operations; as mayor, it was his job to know.

His presentation began with a google map image of Dish, Texas, an image scarred with a disease-like array of oil and gas well pads and facilities. Tillman and his family moved out of Dish a few years ago because it was no longer the community they wanted to live in. Not only had rural Dish, located just north of Fort Worth, been transformed by increased extraction, his children's health suffered and his backyard now featured the view of a massive gas processing facility.

Tillman challenged many of the arguments that the industry makes in defense of its track record, arguments that this county will be hearing extensively leading up to the November election when voters will decide on Measure P, which would ban fracking and other extreme forms of oil extraction in Santa Barbara County.

For example, Tillman challenged the Industry's contention that there have been no proven links between the past decade's fracking boom and groundwater contamination. Firstly, the Industry is being misleading. Technically, the term "fracking" only applies to the actual rock fracturing process. Proven aquifer contamination is more often linked to to well casing failures and spills, rather than the actual breaking up of rock deep underground. Secondly, the fracking process is exempt from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and a few other key environmental safety mechanisms so federal agencies are not monitoring it as much as they should be. And lastly, Non-Disclosure Agreements are a legal way for the industry to get people to shut up. Many neighbors of drilling operations or those with wells/facilities on their land have signed on to an agreement like this. The industry offers to pay to replace the water that has been contaminated by their operations, or gives a sizable check. In return, the signee can never discuss the terms of the agreement or the operations they concern.

Tillman also spoke to the problems of air contamination. He highlighted an often overlooked source of air contamination, Volatile Organic Compounds. Propane, benzene, and other components of gasoline are examples of dangerous volatile organic compounds. Tillman explained that these substances are not visible to the human eye and thus are often being expelled from sites which appear to have little, if any, emissions.

Santa Barbara County stands on the verge of a boom in unconventional, risky oil extraction. Thousands upon thousands of new well sites are waiting to be drilled, oil and gas companies operating in this county are excited, and they expect that their profits will soon be on the rise.

"We don't do what we do for money, and that's the difference." With this statement, Mr. Tillman struck at the heart of the issue. The Santa Barbara County Water Guardians have been accused of being a part of a "cottage industry of activists" coordinating nationally. This is partly correct, there is a wave of concerned citizens across the United States of America who are standing up to the fossil fuel industry and saying NO MORE. No more water contamination, no more sick children, no more false promises, no more lies.  Communities are reaching out to each other, forming networks, and sharing information. Not in order to make a profit, but to protect our homes. 

Calvin Tillman ended his talk with the simple reality. We here in Santa Barbara can choose to do nothing, and allow what has happened to Denton County, Texas to happen here. Or, we can do something about it, we can take a stand and who knows, maybe we will have prevented disaster. The Santa Barbara County Water Guardians have already gotten the ball rolling, now we need you to join us.


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