Ron Hilliard came back from church one Sunday to find hundreds of plastic $5, $10, $20 and $100 bills hanging on his fence in Flower Mound, Texas, another message from townsfolk angry at him for signing a lucrative natural gas drilling lease for his suburban Dallas property.
In Damascus, Pa., about 1,500 miles away, drilling advocate Marian Schweighofer awoke one morning to the word "LORAX" -- from the Dr. Seuss book about environmental destruction -- spray-painted on the road near her family's 712-acre farm.
Hilliard and Schweighofer have never met, yet both are living with the nastiness and rancor erupting in communities nationwide over the volatile issue of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
This technique -- used with horizontal drilling -- allows rich stores of gas to be extracted from once out-of-reach, dense shale formations more than a mile underground. Intense drilling activity is under way in the Barnett Shale of Texas, the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania, and other producing shale regions around the country. As tens of thousands of Americans become energy magnates in their own backyards, tens of thousands more worry about environmental dangers. The industry insists the process is safe, for people and the environment.
This energy boom has turned neighbor against neighbor, split towns and families in bitter disputes, and touched off sharp debates over the sudden emergence of gas companies and their 14-story drilling rigs, some rising in the middle of towns and neighborhoods.