The Barnett Shale, a natural gas-bearing formation underneath 21 counties in north Texas, is a wildcatter’s dream: Wherever energy companies poke a hole, there’s gas. Now they’re scrambling to drill anywhere there’s vacant land – at country clubs, parking lots, city parks, school grounds and airports.

But a vocal and growing minority is not getting behind the Barnett Shale, even though Texas-born actor Tommy Lee Jones urges them to on recent billboards and in newspaper and television ads. Jones is a corporate spokesman for Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s largest independent producer of natural gas and the biggest player in the Barnett Shale.

Jerry Lobdell, a neighborhood activist in Fort Worth, said he feels the energy companies played bait and switch now that pipeline companies are coming into neighborhoods with the power of eminent domain and plans to run odorless gas lines under front yards. The companies insist the gas lines are perfectly safe.

“They came in, they spoke of bonus money and royalties,” he said. “They never said anything about pipelines whatsoever or any of the other bad things that we’ve learned about.”

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