But get Wilson on the phone, and you'll hear the sweet, common-sense lilt of a Texas girl who just happens to have a blog full of links to disaster stories, some of which she's experienced firsthand.

In 1995, Wilson moved from Fort Worth to Wise County, where she purchased 42 acres of land. "I gave up a great deal to move to the country, where I thought my children would enjoy clean air and clean living," she says.

Soon after Wilson arrived, so did Mitchell Energy. The company's owner, George Mitchell, had long known that a gold mine of natural gas lay deep beneath the shale that surrounds Forth Worth. He was dead set on getting it out, though geologists told him it was a pipe dream.

Undaunted, he spent 18 years and millions of dollars — with financing from the U.S. Department of Energy — to prove them wrong. By 1998, his company had developed a cocktail of water, sand, and chemicals that could break through shale.

The first wells sprouted in 2000. But the onslaught wouldn't begin until 2004, when the Bush administration ruled that fracking "posed no threat to drinking water."

Bush's scientists would later be discredited, of course. You didn't need a doctorate from MIT to know that pumping toxins into the ground presented some sort of danger.

The Bush administration seemed to know this as well. A year later, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed a new energy bill through Congress. It not only exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, but also allowed drillers such as Halliburton to keep the ingredients of their toxic cocktails secret.

The industry was presented with a golden opportunity: It could now harvest the riches buried deep beneath the soil, while bearing no responsibility — or public scrutiny — for any damage it left behind.

By 2008, Wilson says, "You couldn't move without running into a well."

She remembers when the well that sits just a half-mile from her home was first drilled. "I can remember waking up one night," she says. "I saw the lights of the rig shining into my house, the sound of the engines, and the generators going. The next morning, I woke up and the sky was just brown. It just stunk. It was awful."

Like her neighbors, Wilson received a knock on her door from a land man asking if she'd like to get rich by leasing her property. But unlike most of the folks in Wise, Wilson didn't jump. Not because she couldn't use the money, but because, she says, "My mother taught me that nothing in life is free."

Instead, she drove to the well pads to see them for herself. That's when she noticed huge pits of putrid liquid nearby. They were dumping ponds filled with toxic water that was supposed to evaporate into the atmosphere. But they were lined with plastic tarps that often tore, allowing cancer-causing chemicals — like benzene, methanol, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, arsenic barium, and lead — to leak into the groundwater. In large doses, they can be lethal. But even lesser exposure can cause birth defects.

Wilson began regularly writing about fracking on her blog, Bluedaze. In one post, she writes about a friend who witnessed a driver of a wastewater truck dumping his load into a pasture where cows were grazing. In another, she links to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about Wise County's 3,998 active wells — and its title for the most polluted air in Texas.

She writes of people who report that their children are passing out in the shower due to gas leaks in their water supply. Others discover their farm animals are losing hair or dying after drinking from contaminated streams.

Wilson chronicles spills into creeks, ponds, and rivers, as well as the bright-orange flares that would light up the night sky thanks to companies burning off "economically irrelevant" reserves. Then there are the fatalities here and there, usually workers killed by explosions.

People from around Texas and as far away as Colorado, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania began contacting her with horror stories of their own, begging Wilson to post home videos of their own flaming faucets and dying animals.

Steven Lipsky was among them. He was just another Texas homeowner with a flaming faucet. But he also had something else: confirmation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that fracking had left his water laced with benzene, capable of causing cancer and birth defects. The danger had forced his family to evacuate their home.

After Wilson posted video of his combustible faucet, Lipsky sued Range Resources for poisoning his water. He also asked the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees environmental issues in the state, to back the feds' finding.

But Range Resources knew that if Lipsky won, thousands of homeowners would set upon the industry, seeking restitution for poisoned land. So it hired the best scientists money could buy — in this case, Harvard and MIT grads as well as Halliburton's experts. Then it took its case to a Railroad Commission already stacked in its favor.

As the Dallas Observer detailed, nearly every member hearing the case had a financial interest in Range or one of its subsidiaries. Even Ethical Corporation's Entine, who is critical of anti-fracking arguments, admits that "the Railroad Commission is totally corrupt."

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6 comments
jozy32k
jozy32k

For all in favor of fracking: Why don't you move your family to these areas and see what your grandchildren and great grandchildren have to say with their birth defects and cancer. Y'all must be ostriches with you heads in that so called "sand". You want to talk about green energy, let's talk about what God DID give us, like solar power, wind power, etc. None of which pollute the land or it's people. We are a killer race and the one's we are killing are ourselves. I'm sure I'll get a bunch of flack for these comments, but in the end, y'all will have to answer to God for what you have done to his gift to us. 

gladesman
gladesman

This all sounds real BAD AND SAD but we need sources of energy.

 

Environmental agencies organizations do their best to obstruct every oil drilling venture that is planned and have stopped many over the years and continue to do so.

 

Maybe fracking wouldn't have become so popular if these well intentioned zealots had foreseen the unintended consequences of their efforts to stop liquid oil production all over America.

 

It looks as though fracking companies foresaw potential environmental attacks and had laws passed ahead of time to protect (armor plate) their investors and investments from environmental extremists attacks.

 

Until a few politicians have their water faucets light up in flames there probably won't be much corrective action taken.

erikdenning
erikdenning

Absolutely. The idea that pumping endless gallons of high water pressure mixed with literally hundreds of chemicals underground in attempts to tear apart the earth and release pockets of gasses can't in any way be harmful. It's nature's way and god's will. Who needs a stable underground anyway?

krs0
krs0

Sorry, but old man Mayer is nuttier than a shithouse rat.

 

john_ellingson
john_ellingson

The attack on fracking is an attack by the woefully uniformed; driven by ignorance and emotion and completely lacking in any evidence.

nicademus69_us
nicademus69_us

 @erikdenning Except it isn't hundreds of chemicals they pump into the ground. It's river water and sand. Occasionally they use glass beads instead of sand. These reason this guys has NG in his water is due to a bad casing and cement job. It's understandable for you to be worried but if people knew a little more about geophysics they would know that 95% of these made up scenarios are impossible. Drilling engineers wish their fracks did what these loony people say they do.

 
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