Fracking fundamentally changes South Texas identity

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The largest oil field in the U.S. begins an hour’s drive from San Antonio.

By Paula Christine Schuler

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

Fifty-four miles from San Antonio is the heaviest activity of oil drilling in South Texas.

The Eagle Ford Shale drilling field is so massive and active, the region is easily seen as a swath of bright lights on nighttime photographic images from satellites.

The field is a zone so large it extends from the Mexican border northeast beyond Austin and encompasses 23 Texas counties.

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in Texas, states the area includes a swath of real estate roughly 50 miles wide and 400 miles long.

The economic impact affects San Antonio and all of South Texas.

Henry Cisneros, chair of San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, said, “This is not just a national class but a world phenomenon that has occurred at our doorstep.”

Cisneros also served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration and mayor of San Antonio from 1981-1989.

The Jobs section of the Sunday San Antonio Express-News carries more than four pages of job openings in the oil industry.

Since the first Eagle Ford Shale well was drilled in 2008, there has been demand for labor in the oil fields and related business.

The Institute for Economic Development at University of Texas at San Antonio conducts research on the boom’s impact on housing and economics.

Oil and related businesses supported 116,000 jobs, the Institute of Economic Development at UTSA has determined. In the October 2012 Workforce Analysis of the Eagle Ford Shale, UTSA reported truck driving to be the No. 1 growth occupation for Bexar County.

Since November, Alamo Colleges has been responding to demands for laborers by working to create programs that provide training directly related to job openings in South Texas, such as oil well safety, first aid and commercial driving licensure.

At 7 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Pearl Stable, the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum sponsored Eagle Shale Forum 2.

Government officials and private industry leaders met for a moderated information session on the clean energy impact of the Eagle Shale oil boom in the counties south and east of San Antonio.

Panelists included Texas Comptroller Susan Combs; Cisneros; and Jim Martson, vice president and co-founder of Texas Office of Environmental Defense Fund.

Moderator Robert Rivard started by asking Cisneros to open with economic numbers to show the magnitude of the boom in the oil field industry in South Texas.

Cisneros said a mere 26 oil drilling permits were issued in 2008; that increased to 4,145 in 2012.

Texas produced more oil in 2012 than Alaska, North Dakota and California combined, the next three highest oil producers in the U.S.

Lance Robertson, vice president of Eagle Ford Production Operations for Marathon Oil, seemed to echo Cisneros when he said one-third of Marathon’s investment globally was going into the Eagle Ford area.

Investments include land and mineral rights, water treatment facilities, deep wells into water sources that are not drinkable, pipelines, oil wells, offices, trucks, refineries, and housing.

Panelists shared their perspectives and expertise in their agreement of the long-term, world-impacting development just south of the city.

The 2010 Census reported the population of Poteet to be 3,250, the oil boom in South Texas is giving the little city headaches with traffic jams, noise and dust.

Retired New York police officer Don Persyn and his wife Rita returned to Texas more than 12 years ago when he retired.

Don said trucks are rolling through Poteet, changing life for his town.

On the flip side, the Persyns are planning to open an RV park on their land to take advantage of unmet housing demands of an exploding workforce drawn from other parts of the United States.

The Eagle Shale Forum 2 can be seen in full at video.klrn.org in Local Programming Specials.

For more information on Alamo Colleges Eagle Ford jobs training programs, visit http://alamo.edu/ewd/ or call 210-485-0246.

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