Eastside residents are sweating bullets – and perhaps checking their political ammo supplies – as natural gas drilling giant Chesapeake Energy Corp. takes a big step into the West Meadowbrook neighborhood.

Chesapeake recently bought 55 acres adjacent to the Tandy Hills Park, and park enthusiasts wonder what’s going to happen to their serene slice of heaven. Residents had been trying to raise money to purchase the land and fold it into the nature area. Now they’re playing the waiting game and wondering what the gas giant has in mind. “The whole deal just closed two or three weeks ago, and it would be way too preliminary to say what we plan to do with that in the future,” Chesapeake spokeswoman Julie Wilson said.

Pad sites for drilling rigs require only a few acres, so a 55-acre parcel could establish a large buffer between a gas well and houses. Some residents hope to convince Chesapeake to use as little of the land as possible for drilling, and donate the rest to the nature area. Chesapeake prides itself as a “good corporate citizen” that has been “sensitive to the needs of our neighbors,” Wilson said.


Pardon the cynicism, but seeing so many gas drilling companies stepping on property owners, drilling in neighborhoods, running heavy trucks up and down small streets not intended for such weight, reducing nearby property values, tapping into underground water supplies, ruining neighboring wells, and generally sullying the quality of life for countless residents has left us feeling … doubtful.

Maybe Chesapeake will prove naysayers wrong. Maybe Static will grow up to be the pope. Meanwhile, sensitivity to the neighborhood obviously isn’t high on the priority list at Sagamore Hills Baptist Church, which sold the land. Certainly it’s the congregation’s right to do what they want with their property. Still, neighbors had begged, pleaded, protested, and told the church that selling out to a gas company was akin to selling its soul to the devil while selling its neighbors down the river. The church seems to have misinterpreted that Bible passage. It says “Turn the other cheek,” not “Bend over and tell your neighborhoods to kiss it.”

Smoke Gets in Your Lungs
When former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona was describing for a congressional panel last week how the Bush administration had twisted his arm to force him to politicize his office – banning him from discussing stem cell research, second-hand smoke, and contraceptive use and forcing him to endorse Republican candidates and favorably mention President Bush in his speeches – it sounded distressingly familiar to some in these parts – especially that part about smoke.

A decade ago, it was U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis (he hadn’t gotten the nickname “Smokey Joe” yet) who was putting then-FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler through the wringer. The ostensible reason for Barton’s investigation of Kessler was expense account irregularities and the FDA’s failure to adequately regulate a particular drug. But Barton’s bigger agenda, many believe, was to force the FDA to loosen its regulation of the drug industry. And Kessler had been a tough regulator – including of the tobacco industry.

Since then, Barton’s made a smoggy name for himself across North Texas for protecting polluting plants in Ellis County and fighting to stave off any measures that would force industries to lighten the load of crud they’ve been billowing out into North Texas air for years.

But hey, maybe he’d make a dandy new surgeon general – needs no training in kowtowing to big business or using his office for political ends. And maybe we could finally get that pesky health warning removed from cigarette packs.

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