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Mary Leshper

Mary Schaper
Posted April 11, 2014

Drilling Frenzy Fuels Sudden Growth in Small Texas Town

NPR: 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.


Before the boom, jobs were few and poverty was high. Then, in 2008, oil company Petrohawk drilled the first discovery well, 2 miles deep into shale. It was successful and led to a drilling frenzy. Now after just six years, more than 8,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled, with permits granted for 5,000 more. They're pumping more than 1 million barrels of oil a day, making it the No. 2 oil-producing region in the U.S.


Train cars roll into the Gardendale rail yard bearing miles of pipe and vast quantities of the chemicals and sand used in hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Cotulla City Manager Larry Dovalina is overseeing the money as the city's coffers fill.

"It was a rural town and like rural America, it was dying — dying on the vine, as they say," he says.

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Mary Schaper is a Digital Communications Manager for the American Petroleum Institute. She previously worked on Capitol Hill for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as Digital Director and for Senator Lisa Murkowski. Before coming to D.C., she spearheaded digital strategy for Murkowski's successful Senate write-in campaign in 2010. Schaper enjoys traveling and taking in the local culture alongside her husband, their son and loyal springer spaniel.