Practice Lays Waste To Land { 32 images } Created 7 Jul 2011

It's 3 a.m.
Dick Ross lies awake in bed as 18-wheelers crawl past his house. Their headlights stream through his window. They are waiting to dump drilling waste on a corn farm 50 feet from his front door. The concoction is a mystery to him, except that when it blows through the air, it strips the paint off his house. For two years, he has fought the Texas Railroad Commission over permit violations involving the dumpsite, submitting photos of trucks dumping waste at all hours of the night and letters demanding that his neighbor's dumpsite be tested for contamination, as required by law. His campaign to shut down the dumpsite triggered threats of litigation from the waste haulers and a giant pile of e-mail correspondence from commission staff, attorneys and scientists assuring him that the dumpsite doesn't pose any health risks. Today, sitting on the wooden porch of his rural Hillsboro home in Hill County, Ross, 64, contemplates his plans for a peaceful pursuit: raising South African Boer goats on his small 10-acre farm. "My advice to anyone dealing with the gas industry: Sell your whole place, get the hell out," Ross says. "They cheat you out of your money, wreck your view and destroy your property value." Yet, even as he contemplates retirement, the former educational supplies salesman is continuing his fight against the Railroad Commission's permitting process by providing guidance to others who are protesting dumpsites in their own communities.

It's two years since Cardo's home burnt to the ground. Now he sleeps in a metal shipping container at the edge of his 9 acre organic farm. However, when a gas drilling company offered Cardo an immediate $10,000 plus monthly royalties for drilling rights on his land, he turned them down, "I just didn't trust them to do what they said, it just didn't feel right."
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