For northern Texans who live near gas wells, fracking's promise of cleaner energy is overshadowed by drilling, pollution and fears for their health. Some residents have started to fight back.
Alyse and Lance Ogletree moved to the Meadows at Hickory Creek, a subdivision of modest houses in this fast-growing city 40 miles north of Dallas, in the fall of 2011. They found the home prices attractive and thought the well-regarded school district would be a good fit for their son, Kyle, who had suffered brain damage after contracting encephalitis when he was 8 months old.
Before closing the deal, Alyse, an electrical engineer in her 20s, asked the salesperson about storage tanks she’d noticed in the field several hundred feet behind the house. The salesperson said they were water tanks, Alyse recalls. She took this to mean the tanks had something to do with the drinking-water supply.
What the Ogletrees didn’t realize was that they were purchasing a home in a neighborhood near several of Denton’s more than 270 gas wells. They also didn’t know that in Texas and many other states, buying a home doesn’t necessarily entitle the owner to the resources beneath the property. That means energy companies can in some cases drill the area for gas without the homeowners' consent.