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UNM study outlines issues facing Permian Basin oil workers

Oil and gas refinery in Artesia, New Mexico.
Jonny Coker
Oil and gas refinery in Artesia, New Mexico.

On Tuesday, the University of New Mexico’s Center for Social Policy released a report that focuses on the Latino workforce in the Permian Basin. According to UNM researcher Dr. Gabriel Sanchez, the project aimed to highlight underserved communities within the oil and gas industry.

“We’ve specifically focused on the Latino workforce [because] they comprise a much larger share of the overall oil and gas workforce in New Mexico than folks often recognize, but we also wanted to specifically look at that population because they’re often not included in policy discussion [related to] workforce development,” he said.

The study was commissioned by the New Mexico-based non-profit Somos Un Pueblo Unido, and UNM researchers interviewed nearly 100 families connected to the oil and gas industry in the southeastern part of the state.

According to the research project, 20% of oil industry workers reported making less than $25,000 per year. Dr. Sanchez said this, combined with other factors such as dangerous working conditions and lack of economic and educational opportunities, create a need for more public resources in the Permian Basin.

“Every single person that we spoke with indicated they need more resources, more funding, and more overall support from the state and others to make sure that they meet the current demand for workforce development training, as well as the expanded demand that they know is on the horizon as we transition away from oil and gas into clean energy,” he said.

State policy recommendations from the study include more investment in safety nets for workers in emerging industries, funding for adult education programs, and prioritizing safer working conditions.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.