A Dallas jury recently awarded nearly $3 million to a family who said they were poisoned by a natural gas drilling operation near their North Texas ranch. The verdict, reached on April 22, is being called a landmark by opponents of the drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."
South Texas is in the midst of a massive oil boom. In just a few years, it has totally transformed once-sleepy communities along a crescent swoosh known as the Eagle Ford Shale formation and has brought unexpected prosperity — along with a host of new concerns.
Among the towns drastically changed by the drilling is Cotulla, southwest of San Antonio, about 70 miles up from the border with Mexico. The area is called brush country — flat, dry ranch land, scrubby with mesquite and parched by drought.