Lawmakers Hope to Bring Stability to Eagle Ford Shale Boomtowns

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State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio)

As oil and gas companies descend on South Texas, lawmakers are beginning to confront the new chaos brought on by the Eagle Ford Shale boom.

The recently formed Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus met Wednesday, led by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) to discuss the shale play’s economic impact on South Texas—but the conversation veered to the day-to-day issues affecting residents most, like quiet country roads that become an industrial zones without any notice.

Thomas Tunstall, who directs the Center for Community and Business Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said the caucus should try to promote long-term stability in the fast-growing boomtowns around the shale, so the families lured there for work will want to stay.

It’s been 25 years since Texas has produced this much oil, Tunstall said, and 1,600 wells were completed in the Eagle Ford area last year. A study produced at UTSA last year pegged the Eagle Ford’s regional economic impact at $25 billion, and supported 47,000 jobs.

DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler said he has formed a coalition, along with other South Texas officials, “to get the idea across that we need help.” Fowler said they want to spend some of the tax revenue generated by the Eagle Ford on road repairs, rather than put it all into the Rainy Day Fund.

“The Rainy Day Fund, as big as it is, the damages are not being paid for at the county level,” Fowler said.

Zaffirini and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) worried about housing and schools in the fast-growing areas around the shale.

“We really need to look at this in a comprehensive approach to sustainability planning,” Van de Putte said. Zaffirini said students might drop out of high school or college to work for oil and gas companies. She said she’d like to see colleges offer some courses on worksites.