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.