Impacts to Balmorhea Related to the Development of the “Alpine High”

This overview summarizes impacts to the community of Balmorhea, related to Apache Corporation’s development of a recently announced oil & gas find, the so-called “Alpine High” field.

Apache Corporation is currently drilling exploratory and test wells in the Balmorhea area, its drilling contractor, Pioneer Energy Services is operating five rigs on behalf of Apache Corporation.

The company announced that they plan to invest $2.1Bn in the region, completing wells at the rate of approximately 80 annually, with as many as 4,000 wells in total as the field is fully developed over the coming years.

Apache Corporation is one of at least eight producers with mineral rights leases in the southern Delaware Basin, in, and surrounding Balmorhea and the south of Reeves County Texas.

Impacts to Balmorhea and south Reeves County include:

– Risks of surface, and groundwater contamination from drilling and production activities.
– Potential impacts on spring flow from San Solomon Springs, which feeds Balmorhea Lake, a critical freshwater reservoir, and the pool at Balmorhea State Park, one of Texas’ priceless recreational sites.
– Potential impacts on groundwater resources in the Rustler, and Igneous Aquifers, minor aquifers that provide all of the fresh water resources for drinking and agriculture in the region.
– Potential impacts on air quality, related to emissions, including fugitive methane leaks, venting,  flaring, combustion engine exhaust, and production activities.
– Impacts to dark skies, associated with rig lighting, plant and facility lighting, flaring, vehicle traffic, and growth of commercial infrastructure (hotels/motels, restaurants, bars, retail stores, etc.)
– Decreased public safety, related to the risk of rupture, explosion and fire in the producing field.
– Increases in area traffic, with downside impacts including vehicle accidents, vehicle fatalities, road wear and damage, speeding, DUI, and related problems.
– Socioeconomic impact, including disparate impact on ethnic community members, those in poverty, increases in rental prices, increases in cost of living, displacement of existing members of the community who cannot afford these increases, a rise in criminal activity, including drug-related crime, assault, violence against persons, including rape, human trafficking, and theft.
– Increased demand on law enforcement and first responders, including fire and EMS personnel.
– Impacts on area culture, and business as tourism and agricultural activity gives way to industrial and commercial infrastructure to support a predominantly transient workforce.

This list of impacts and risks is by no means complete, or comprehensive. Enumerated here are the major issues, at a high-level that southern Reeves County, and the citizens of Balmorhea are facing.

This small, rural West Texas community lacks sufficient resources to cope with all the impacts they are facing, and the communities in surrounding counties, in this sparsely populated, remote region as similarly ill-equipped. Large scale extraction and production activities have significant history, and documented negative impact on small rural communities, spanning nearly 80 years. You can find out more by keeping an eye on the Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s resource pages and blog.