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Senior Citizen Turns To Social Media In Dallas Gas Drilling Fight

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The city of Dallas is still weeks away from having the council formally set guidelines for gas drilling inside city limits.  But a senior citizen who is unusually social media savvy is among a group of concerned people lobbying the city to take a conservative approach.

70-year-old Phyllis Guest is unlike many people her age.  Unwilling to settle comfortably into retirement, she’s earned a second Masters degree in college; and she’s learned social media.  Now she’s taking on gas drilling regulations at Dallas City Hall and spoke directly to council members last week.

“Of concern in all areas targeted by the drillers are air pollution, water contamination, big rigs, and ruined roads,” she told council members.

On Tuesday, she spoke to CBS 11 about her concerns that gas drilling might hurt Dallas residents.  “Nobody knows if they’ll be exploited or not,” she told us, adding, “And if they start fracking (hydraulic fracturing) close to the lakes or close to the Trinity River, that’s all she wrote. Because five million gallons of water is what it takes for a single drill site.”

She sees added reasons for worry.  “But we’re already on water restrictions; it’ just incredible.   So to think that they might drill 300-feet like the industry wants to —from somebody’s home—and then run pipes under it and start taking our water– it just makes no sense at all.”

The former freelance writer researches online and keeps up on Facebook.  She tried Twitter, but not anymore. “Why would I do that?” she asks wryly. “It would just waste my time.”  She believes her younger members will likely retweet important stuff anyway.

She is thoughtful about how she approaches people, sometimes using e-mails online, sometimes preferring to contact them by regular U.S. Mail.  “I’m perfectly willing to write letters as often as they need to be written and send e-mails, that kind of thing.”  She believes a customized approach pays dividends in getting peoples’ attention in a positive way.  “So people probably do pay attention to their snail mail, if it’s individualized.”

Her main criticism is the gas industry’s desire to allow 300 feet between drilling sites and the nearest home or business.  She wants 1,000.  And emphasizes it with a flair for the dramatic, harkening to a disaster in September of 1910.
“You know what happened in San Bruno California when those pipes exploded; those houses went up in smoke. You want your house to go up in smoke?   It’s easy.”

A city task force did recommend a 1,000 foot buffer.  Another worry for Guest?  She points out rights to mineral leases have already been bought in the Bachman Lake and Northlake areas of Dallas.   Some of the addresses she’s worried about are in far West Dallas, out by Walton Walker Freeway, but some are near downtown—including in the shadow of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

A gas industry representative told CBS 11 there are no studies justifying a thousand foot separation; that it doesn’t work from a real estate perspective, and that any drilling could come only in the extreme western parts of Dallas.

A fellow activist says Guest inspires all ages.   “And they look to Phyllis as a grandmother figure, or maybe another senior, in Phyllis’ age bracket could do their own research and reading,” says Raymond Crawford of the Dallas Area Residents for Responsible Drilling.  He hopes Guest’s efforts will energize others.  “We all breathe the same air,” he argues, “we all drink the same water, so no matter where a gas pad side is proposed to be built, it’s going to effect everyone’s environment, not just the area in which it is located.”

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