With a giant spotlight on Texas’ southern border crisis, some may overlook the disaster along our western border. Midland-Odessa in West Texas is the epicenter of the burgeoning oil industry, but 150 miles away where the Permian Basin oil boom is rapidly expanding in New Mexico, the population has more than doubled from 40,000 to 75,000 in just a few short years. With this excessive growth, there has been little attention paid to the fact that there are not nearly enough highways or options for housing, health care or monitoring of the effects to the environment.
Operating rigs in New Mexico have increased by 15 percent, and overcrowded cities are surrounded by worker camps and RV parks busting at the seams. Hotels are filled with oil workers, making it difficult for tourists to find lodging after traveling to see attractions like Carlsbad Caverns. Schools in the cities are also struggling to keep up with the influx of new students who are staying with their oil worker parents.
As a result of the increased student enrollment, the schools need more teachers. The problem is that the teachers can’t find places to live because of Carlsbad’s housing crunch. To combat this, the Carlsbad school system is building an array of manufactured homes to rent to its teachers.
The biggest boom has been in the Permian’s western lobe, known as the Delaware Basin. That area stretches from Pecos, Texas to Carlsbad and is connected by U.S. 285, a two-lane road known as “Death Highway” due to the nearly 500 traffic fatalities that have occurred.
Air and Noise Pollution
Natural gas is a byproduct of oil drilling. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is also a toxic greenhouse gas that plays a large factor in the earth’s global warming. Methane that is burned off or vented by oil companies has hit a record high in the Permian region, tripling from two years ago. Emissions can come from flares, storage tanks or leaky pipelines. The state of New Mexico is struggling to keep up and develop emissions and flaring rules, but in recent months the governor did create a methane advisory panel.
New Mexico law requires that wellheads be at least 300 feet from residential properties, but that won’t stop the noise of 24-hour-a-day drilling from keeping homeowners awake at night. Homeowners also have to adjust to the noise coming from the oil workers driving their big rigs on the country roads near their homes.
Finite Housing Market
The region just can’t develop housing fast enough to keep up with the incoming population. It makes it hard to recruit doctors, police and teachers because they can’t locate housing. In addition to this, some apartment complexes are taking advantage of the crisis and have more than doubled the cost of rent because they know desperate people will pay it. In some instances people have lost their home because they couldn’t afford to pay double to stay in the same place.
* sourced from Houston Chronicle