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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dish Texas Sues Gas Firms Over Compressor Stations

From Star-Telegram, Bob Cox rcox@star-telegram.com



The small town of Dish, which has previously sparred with natural gas drillers over its water quality, also thinks natural gas compressor stations are an unsightly and perhaps dangerous nuisance that harm local property values.

The town makes those complaints in a lawsuit filed Monday in District Court in Denton County against six natural gas pipeline companies.

The suit calls a complex of compressor stations that the companies operate near the town "a public nuisance." It also alleges that the compressor stations have harmed the emotional and financial well-being of the community, which is southwest of Denton. Fort Worth lawyer Kirk Claunch, who is representing the town, filed the lawsuit and two others on behalf of 10 landowners. The suits claim that landowners and the town are entitled to collect monetary damages from the gas companies because of diminished property values.

The mere presence of the compressor stations, the truck traffic they generate and the potentially dangerous air pollutants constitute trespass on Dish residents' property and "makes it less desirable to live in that area," Claunch said Wednesday. Compressor stations typically employ huge engines to drive pumps to move natural gas through the big pipelines.

"The reality of it is, if people that live close to these facilities want to leave, they can't because of the decline in property values," Claunch said. Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry supported group, said he had not seen the suits and declined to comment on the specific allegations.

"I'm aware that there have been some other nuisance lawsuits ... in this area with similar claims, but I don't know how they've been resolved," Ireland said.

The lawsuits repeatedly spell out concerns about dangerous emissions from the gas compressor facilities as an ongoing problem, but make no claims that any Dish resident has suffered illness or injury.
Because of concerns about emissions, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality installed an automated air quality monitor in 2009 at the Dish airport. The monitor collects air samples hourly and measures levels of pollutants.

Commission officials say continuous air sampling at the Dish site has not detected and measured chemicals above areas of concern, and in most cases far below levels believed to be dangerous.

According to Dish's lawsuit, the decline in property values has cost the town at least $15,000 a year in diminished tax revenue a year. It said it has incurred legal fees as a result of the companies' activities and is entitled to damages of $1,000 per day for each incident of trespass.

Landowners suing the gas companies have suffered property value losses of at least $75,000 each and are entitled to damages of at least $150,000 each for the nuisance and damage to their personal property and well-being from the location of the gas plants, the suit alleges.

Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman said last week that he is selling his house and planning to move out of the town because of the gas plants and their emissions.

Tillman put his house on the market last year after his family began experiencing symptoms such as nose bleeds that he believes were due to the nearby gas operations.

Bob Cox, 817-390-7723
http://moontownshippa.blogspot.com

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