Texas lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Rick Perry that would provide $225 million in general revenue funds to help repair and maintain county roads damaged by oil and gas production activity, mainly in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale regions.
SB 1747, which the governor is expected to sign, creates a transportation infrastructure fund that would allow counties in high-impact producing regions to create county transportation reinvestment zones. By establishing such zones, counties could use increased revenues from county property and sales taxes to repair and maintain roads that have been damaged by oil and gas production activity.
It is estimated that a county road used for drilling one oil and gas well will endure the equivalent of eight million passenger vehicles, said state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), author of the bill. About 5,400 wells have been permitted in the Eagle Ford region, and it's projected that 24,000 wells will be operating by 2022, he said.
"Help is on the way for these counties," Uresti said. "Working in a bipartisan fashion, the legislature has recognized that county roads are the gateway to the oil patch and must be maintained for the state's oil boom to continue. With this bill, we are saving the goose that laid the golden egg."
DeWitt County in the Eagle Ford region is one county that has seen its roads deteriorate from heavy industry traffic. Last summer, DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler said the impact of energy development on roads in Eagle Ford area counties is too great of an economic burden for them to bear alone (see Shale Daily, July 5, 2012). The increased traffic generated by oil and gas development, particularly that of heavy trucks, has also raised safety concerns (see Shale Daily, July 10, 2012)
"The need is clear," Uresti said. "County roads were not designed to take on the punishing burden of oil patch trucks carrying heavy loads of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] sand, water and drilling equipment. This bill and the funding that it brings will take a giant step toward addressing the long-term needs of county roads, which are the linchpin of our energy production efforts."