Drilling Divides Fort Worth

But why even drill near any residential homes, ever? Because that's where the resources are, King said. The Barnett Shale covers two dozen counties across Texas but the sweet spot is in Tarrant County, just below Fort Worth and its population of around 650,000, which is spread across 300 square miles. Fort Worth's mayor, Mike Moncrief, has been riding a wave of popularity in recent years because he has supported drilling -- and it has made a lot of his constituents wealthy.

"But even Moncrief now sees the need to take a step back and study the issues," Rep. Burnam said. "More people are starting to push back.

To that end, Moncrief, who could not be reached for comment, has established an independent committee to study air quality issues, specifically concerns that cancer causing toxins are being emitted at unacceptable levels. "The mayor is committed to addressing air quality concerns," Jason Lamers, a city spokesman said.

Stacked Deck

Reeves says she doesn't buy it. Official tasks forces to study drilling impact issues have been filled with representatives from the oil and gas industry in the past, and nothing resembling opposition has ever resulted. "The deck is stacked," she said.

As far as possible pipeline accidents are concerned, Chesapeake did not operate the ones that exploded. The explosion closest to Fort Worth was run by Enterprise Products Partners. It was a 36-inch pipe, running nearly 400 miles. This type of gas line is a high-pressure, high-volume transmission line, and not the type of pipeline that would accompany the typical well operation, Chesapeake's King said. She stressed that opponents to drilling, people like Reeves, are in the minority. A survey Chesapeake commissioned in February found that 66 percent of Tarrant County residents who live near a drilling site had a "positive impression."

Bobbie McCurdy, a 37-year-old mother of two young children who lives a few hundred feet from the proposed site, is not among those with a positive impression of drilling. She admits signing a lease agreement with Chesapeake a few years ago and, this past March, signed a waiver allowing Chesapeake to drill.

Now, she has regrets.

"I was drinking the Kool-Aid like a lot of people, but now that I've done the research and learned more about the health and environmental hazards involved ... I'm terrified," she said.

And if the drilling is approved?

"We'll move," she says, without hestitation.

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