Pecos, Politics And Oil


All right. NPR has been visiting swing districts in the 2018 midterms. And in the state of Texas, that is the 23rd Congressional District, which is where we find our own Rachel Martin today. Hey, Rachel. How’s it going?


Hey, Noel. It’s going pretty good. I am in Del Rio, Texas, looking out over Lake Amistad, which is actually part of the natural barrier that separates the U.S. from Mexico, at least in this part of the border. But this is a huge congressional district just in terms of geography. It stretches all the way from outside of El Paso to San Antonio. But what is in the middle of this district is also very interesting at this moment. Fracking has turned the once small city of Pecos, Texas, into a boomtown.


MATT ELLIOTT: This is the frack that’s going on. There’s a lot of things that are happening all at once here.

MARTIN: The voice you hear is that of 30-year-old Matt Elliott. Like a lot of people born and raised here in Pecos, he knows the language of oil drilling.

ELLIOTT: So they call it zipper fracking. They’ll go down hole. They’ll put a plug in, and then they’ll…

MARTIN: He’s one of many people making money off the oil industry here. He’s got a wife and three kids and not a lot of tolerance for risk.

ELLIOTT: You’ll hear people say that the oil industry is like a drug. And it really can be because if people aren’t careful, they get so dependent on it that when it’s gone, they don’t know what to do. And I didn’t want that to be us.

MARTIN: So he started a business that rents out construction equipment, like port-a-potties, to all sorts of corporations, including oil companies. And when it comes to politics, Matt Elliott doesn’t give President Trump all the credit for this boom. But he does like what he’s been seeing.

ELLIOTT: “America First,” taking pride in what we do, you know, letting people know that, you know, that we’re not – you know, we’re just not – we’re not just going to be somebody’s little handout all the time and that, you know, we want to grow our economy here.

MARTIN: And as for Pecos specifically…

ELLIOTT: As long as we keep moving forward, that’s the main thing.

MARTIN: But Pecos hasn’t just been moving forward. It has been barreling down the highway at breakneck speeds with no road map.

VENETTA SEALS: It’s really an emergency situation. We weren’t prepared for this.

MARTIN: This is the mayor of Pecos. Her name is Venetta Seals. And she says her city needs to see more of that money because now there are way more people here than this place can handle.

What’s the population of Pecos?

SEALS: That’s a hard one to answer. According to the 2010 population, we’re just under 10,000. We are easily on any given day somewhere between 30 and 50,000 depending on how many people are driving in.

MARTIN: And that’s putting a huge strain on this small town’s infrastructure. There aren’t enough things like restaurants or even grocery stores.

SEALS: Unless you’ve actually been here, you don’t understand what the need is here. You don’t understand what it’s like to stand in these lines at the grocery store. And then when you go, the shelves – they’re out of bread, milk, eggs, you know, all the staples. My husband’s retired. He knows when the milk guy shows up at Walmart (laughter), when the bread guy shows up literally. And that’s when he goes to get those things for us.

MARTIN: That’s crazy.

SEALS: It is crazy. We would probably have exploded even more if we’d had the housing in place because right now so…

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