Boomtown: Dust to Dust & Life and Death on the Rig

For the months of February and March, we’re airing episodes of Boomtown  a series made by Texas Monthly and Imperative Entertainment. The podcast takes you inside the rugged Permian Basin of West Texas, where roughnecks and billionaire wildcatters are fueling a boom so big it’s reshaping our climate, our economy, and our geopolitics.

This week, we’re airing two episodes of the podcast back to back. You’ll hear about the eighties bust and the consequences the plummeting price of oil had on the region and its residents.  Then, you’ll hear about an oilfield family who suffered unimaginable tragedy in a single accident.


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Oil well operators burn off natural gas, a byproduct of oil production, in a process called flaring. (Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT)

As Flares Burn Across West Texas, A New Study Shows The Lone Star State Isn’t Releasing As Much Natural Gas As Other Oil-Producing Countries

By Mitch Borden

In the last decade, as the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin and other shale plays have boomed, so have the number of flares across Texas.

The increase in flaring—when a company burns off the excess natural gas from oil wells—is concerning for environmentalists who worry about the release of greenhouse gases, while others view the burning as a waste of a resource. But a new 13-page study from one of the state’s regulators finds companies in Texas are flaring at a lower rate than other major oil-producing countries.


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A plane waits on the runway at Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport. (Reynaldo Leaños Jr / Texas Public Radio)

Nearly 600 Asylum Seekers Have Been Sent to Guatemala Under Trump Policy

By Reynaldo Leaños Jr., Texas Public Radio

Thomas Cartwright ran along a chain link fence outside the runway at the Brownsville South Padre International Airport. He was trying to catch a glimpse of buses loading migrants onto a plane.

Cartwright says he and other protestors are there to show border officials “that there are watchers, so that nothing is done in the darkness.” 

But as Cartwright leaned against the fence to record and take photos, an empty white airport shuttle pulled up and parked in front of him, obscuring his view of the plane. It’s not the first time this has happened.


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Texas Standard, KUT, KVUE-TV and The Texas Tribune held a debate with the candidates running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate Tuesday night. (GABRIEL C. PÉREZ / KUT)

Democrats Make Their Cases On Immigration, Gun Laws and Marijuana In U.S. Senate Primary Debate

By Marisa Charpentier, KUT

Eleven candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas faced off in Austin on Tuesday night. Guns, immigration, health care and marijuana dominated the debate.

The race is being closely watched. After Beto O’Rourke lost by just 2.6 percentage points to Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, many now believe Texas — which hasn’t had a Democratic U.S. senator since 1993 — could elect a Democrat.


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Bernie Sanders speaks to an enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Mesquite Rodeo Arena near Dallas for a campaign rally on Feb. 14, 2020. (Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune)

Presidential Candidates Turn Their Focus To Texas, As Early Voting Begins

By Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune

Bernie Sanders wasted little time Friday night at a Dallas-area rally getting to what he said would be a “dramatic announcement.”

“We’re gonna win the state of Texas,” he declared, setting off raucous cheers.


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Outside a polling place in Alpine, TX on Election Day, 2016. (Travis Lux/KRTS)

Early Voting In Texas Has Started. Here’s What You Need To Know

By Marfa Public Radio

Beginning Tuesday. Feb. 18, Texas voters will head to polls to cast ballots in several statewide and legislative races, including the presidential primary. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know ahead of voting in Texas’ 2020 primaries.


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Following the unveiling of the Texas African American History Memorial on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol in November 2016, a demonstration by White Lives Matter supporters was met with large counterprotests by Smash Fascism Austin. (Gabriel C. Perez / KUT)

A Report Found Texas Led The Nation In White Supremacy Propaganda Incidents In 2019

By Andrew Weber, KUT

Displays and demonstrations in support of white supremacy doubled in the United States last year, according to a study out last week, and Texas led the country in incidents.

In 2019, there were just over 2,700 instances nationally in which white supremacists demonstrated or distributed material that was racist, anti-Semitic or anti-LGBTQ, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s report. That’s more than a six-fold increase since 2017.


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Clayton Williams during the 1990 gubernatorial campaign. (Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune)

Clayton Williams, Oilman And Colorful Candidate For Texas Governor, Has Died

By Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune

Clayton Williams, a Midland oilman, banker and entrepreneur who spent millions of his own money on a wild 1990 race for governor, has died. He was 88.

The Midland Reporter-Telegram, quoting close associates, reported that Williams died Friday night from complications of a bout of pneumonia.


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Christian Wallace of Boomtown & The Rise of the Permian

For the months of February and March, we’re airing episodes of Boomtown — a series made by Texas Monthly and Imperative Entertainment. The podcast takes you inside the rugged Permian Basin of West Texas, where roughnecks and billionaire wildcatters are fueling a boom so big it’s reshaping our climate, our economy, and our geopolitics.


Continue reading

In late 2019, prominent Terlingua business owner Jeff Leach sued his former employee, Katy Milam, after she accused him of attempted sexual assault. A judge threw out Leach's lawsuit last week. (Sally Beauvais / Marfa Public Radio)

Judge Dismisses Terlingua Business Owner’s Defamation Case Amid Claims Of Sexual Assault

By Marfa Public Radio Staff

Last week, a Kerrville-based judge threw out a civil lawsuit that’s been stirring up tensions in south Brewster County for almost half a year.

In September, Jeff Leach, owner of the vacation rental business Basecamp Terlingua, sued local woman Katy Milam for making what his attorney has called false defamatory statements against him.

Milam alleges that Leach attempted to sexually assault her while she was his employee. She filed a police complaint at the time but did not press charges. Her claim is the basis of Leach’s defamation suit against her.


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Transmigrantes, Central American drivers hauling second hand wares back to their home countries, can often be seen on Texas highways. The words 'In Tow' are usually taped across their vehicle's tailgate. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

In Presidio, Locals Weigh Risks and Rewards Of Transmigrante Traffic

By Carlos Morales

It’s early morning in January at a gas station in Marfa and there’s a steady stream of traffic filing into the tiny West Texas town. There are weary-eyed travelers filling up on gas, others stopping by for a quick breakfast and, waiting outside, a handful of drivers standing next to a row of beat-up Toyotas.

One of the men, Bener López, quickly scans over the goods he’s towing in his crumbling truck. There’s a ladder, an old bathroom scale, even a motorbike — and everything’s second hand.


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In 2008, the city of Presidio passed an ordinance requiring residents to post their house numbers. But in rural areas, knowing your own address isn't always as simple as it seems. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

In West Texas, Knowing Your Address Can Be The Difference Between Life And Death

By Sally Beauvais

If you find yourself in need of a trip to the emergency room in the West Texas border town of Presidio, the odds may be stacked against you.

Low on resources and manpower, the local emergency medical services crew—responsible for roughly 1,500 square miles of the county—can operate only one of their two ambulances at a time. From city limits, it’s a 90-mile drive to the closest U.S. hospital. A trip from one of the outlying communities, like Candelaria or Ruidosa, can run you close to three hours —barring interference from loose cattle, or a rain-flooded creek running into the road.

But there’s another, less obvious hurdle that can delay first responders in getting to you in this remote part of the state: finding your front door.


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Desert “Unicorns”: The White Lizards of the Salt Basin Dunes

In the West Texas countryside on a summer day, you’re apt to glimpse one racing across the ground, or basking in the sun. If you’re a “desert rat” yourself, you’re likely to identify with the small creature’s evident love of … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:45 am and 4:45 pm.
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