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UTSA Eagle Ford Shale Reports Will Shift Focus To Long-Term Community Issues In Boom Towns

Chris Eudaily
TPR News
UTSA's Thomas Tunstall in the TPR studios during an appearance on "The Source."

The South Texas oil and natural gas drilling boom in the Eagle Ford Shale will continue to impact Texas and its local communities in a big way in 2014, but the boom may have already seen its largest single-year growth.

Every year the University of Texas at San Antonio studies how the Eagle Ford Shale has affected the small Texas towns where production is happening. The report takes into account both the positives and negatives of the growth.

Dr. Thomas Tunstall, the research director for UTSA's Institute for Economic Development, said the biggest events may have already happened two to three years ago.

At this year's TEDxSanAntonio event, Tunstall said that as the new year approaches, growth will still be good.

"Last year alone we estimated that there was $61 billion in economic impact supporting over 116,000 full time jobs every single day," he said. "The Eagle Ford Shale cranks out over 600,000 barrels of oil and by sometime in 2014 that number is expected to cross the 1 million barrel a day mark. And all of this economic activity is impacting lives."

Tunstall said barring some dramatic shift downward in price of oil, production will continue on pace, but doesn't see 2014 as a monumental year for drilling.

Instead of focusing on impacts in the new year, Tunstall said UTSA will begin focusing its annual reports on how the small communities will carry on after the boom is finished.

He said there are hundreds of ghost towns left from past economic booms, and Texas doesn't need anymore of that.

"What we need are sustainable communities, and to get there we need theories of economic development to take us beyond just job growth to include things like quality of life, environmental stewardship, development of skilled local workforce, development of high quality infrastructure. And when I say infrastructure I'm talking about things like roads, which are under tremendous pressure in South Texas," he said.

New reports will look at the miles of Texas roads that are falling apart from the increased heavy truck traffic because of the boom.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.