Resistance to Gas Drilling Rises on Unlikely Soil

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"Even in Texas, public concern about natural gas drilling is growing."

Texans pride themselves on being the heart of the nation's oil and gas business. But even here, public concern about natural gas drilling is growing.

On Wednesday, several dozen protesters marched through downtown Fort Worth, waving signs and chanting anti-drilling slogans that reflected concern over air and water pollution.

The anxiety centers on fracking, which is now used in more than half of new gas wells drilled in Texas. This practice ,which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals far underground to break up rock and extract gas, is common in the Barnett Shale, a major shale-gas field around Fort Worth.

The protest, organized by the group Rising Tide North Texas, is the latest sign of a backlash against drilling in Texas. Yard signs saying "Get the Frack Out of Here" and "Protect Our Kids/No Drilling" have appeared in some yards in Southlake, a Dallas suburb. A few communities have declared a temporary moratorium on drilling permits, and Dallas set up a task force last week to examine drilling regulations within its city limits.

Analysts say the discontent appears to be partly inspired by highly publicized concerns in Pennsylvania, a state unaccustomed to drilling and where fracking has recently increased. The federal government is also raising concerns: the Environmental Protection Agency is beginning a study about the method's effect on groundwater, and a report for Congressional Democrats released last week detailed the quantity of chemicals that gas companies are putting into the ground.

Gas companies say fracking is safe, but some acknowledge that changes are needed.

"For the most part, I would view these as self-inflicted wounds," said Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range Resources, a drilling company, speaking about the industry generally.

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