January 17, 2019 / 5:49 PM / a year ago

Former U.S. commerce secretary to lead group to help Permian residents

HOUSTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Former U.S. Commerce Secretary and energy executive Don Evans will chair a partnership of oil and gas firms that have pledged $100 million toward easing the civic strain of the shale oil and gas boom in West Texas and New Mexico, the group said on Thursday.

The Permian Strategic Partnership is a group of 19 top U.S. energy companies that have organized to address stresses on health care, education, housing and the workforce created by companies flocking to the Permian Basin, it announced in November.

The nation’s largest oil field is expected to pump 3.8 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) this month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Evans, who started his career working on a rig for Tom Brown Inc and eventually became its CEO, served as commerce secretary during the administration of former President George W. Bush. He is a longtime resident of Midland, Texas, where the organization will be based.

The boom has employers, including restaurants and local governments, under pressure from staff leaving for oilfield jobs. Midland’s unemployment rate was 2.1 percent in October, compared to the nation’s 3.7 percent rate.

The last decade’s shale boom has led to school overcrowding, soaring traffic fatalities, drug abuse and strains on the power grid.

Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum Corp, Pioneer Natural Resources and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are among the members of the group.

The partnership has started holding community meetings in the region to gather input, but is still recruiting staff. It has no timetable or plan yet for how the initial $100 million contribution will be spent. (Reporting by Jennifer Hiller Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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