SAN ANTONIO, March 8 - State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, has introduced legislation to address the shortage of workers needed for oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford Shale play.
“I am very bothered that we in South Texas have to go out of state to get workers,” Hunter said, at a reception for the 2nd Annual Eagle Ford Shale Consortium Conference, currently underway in San Antonio.
“When I was in school we had shop, we had metal and we had woodworking. It has disappeared. I have introduced the Workforce Education Bill in order to develop certifications so we can keep our workers here and we can have the trained workforce over the next two years.”
Many of the attendees at the conference are from companies involved in the Eagle Ford Shale exploration and production. Hunter said if they are interested in having a trained workforce they should get in touch about his legislation.
Interviewed by the Guardian later, Hunter said his bill is “an effort to bring workforce development and education from higher and public together to make sure we have the training and the laws in place so that we can have our workers stay here for things like piping, vocational tech.”
State Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, spoke earlier in the Eagle Ford Shale conference. He said those in the audience to “harangue elected officials” so they get the message about improving infrastructure in the South Texas counties impacted by the oil and gas production. “The State of Texas can help by investing the infrastructure. That is its job,” Nevarez told the Guardian.
Nevarez said the local labor force market was being turned upside down by Eagle Ford Shale.
“We are losing a lot of bus drivers. They are going out there (to the Eagle Ford Shale production areas) to drive trucks. There is more pay. We are also losing a lot of sheriff’s deputies and police officers. They are going to work as security. Again, better paying jobs,” he said.
“We need more technical training in our high schools and in our junior colleges so the kids who want to do that kind of work can do it.”
Eagle Ford Shale production is primarily taking place in Atascosa, Bee, DeWitt, Dimmit, Frio, Gonzales, Karnes, La Salle, Live Oak, Maverick, McMullen, Webb, Wilson and Zavala counties. On the periphery are the counties of Bexar, Jim Wells, Nueces, San Patricio, Uvalde and Victoria.
Last November, the Texas Workforce Commission issued a report that said that in 2011, 38,000 jobs were supported by the Eagle Ford Shale, with the most significant occupations by volume being construction and extraction, office support, and transportation. The report said the play was responsible for over $19.2 billion in output, and 10.5 billion in gross regional product. It said Eagle Ford Shale had brought in over $500 million in state and local revenue.
Over the coming years, the demand for workers and the revenues generated are projected to be much higher. By 2021, the TWC study said, Eagle Ford Shale is expected to account for over $62 billion in total annual economic output, support almost 83,000 jobs in the area, add more than $34 billion of annual gross regional product, provide more than $1.6 billion of annual state revenues, and close to $900 million of annual revenues to local governments.
The data for the report came from the Center for Community and Business Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute for Economic Development.
Community colleges in the Eagle Ford Shale region have joined forces to produce a plan to increase the number of trained workers needed for oil and gas exploration and production.
At the conference reception, Hunter also talked about another bill he has just filed, dealing with desalinization. He said anyone interested in the subject should contact his office. “I am tired of the talk and it is time to walk,” he said. A joint committee comprised of House and Senate members would study the issue of desalinization over the next year and a half, Hunter said.
“We have talked about taking brackish water and making it fresh so I have introduced legislation for the House, the Senate and to involve the public to develop the concept to make it a reality over the next year and a half,” Hunter told the Guardian. He said his legislation would be separate from the major state water plan bill. “But, they will work hand in hand,” he said.
Hunter concluded his remarks to those attending the Eagle Ford Shale conference by saying: “You are putting Texas back on the map. Working together we are going to get things done.”