Jobs, Revenues At Risk If Oil Field Is Abandoned

For more than 70 years East Texas oil wells have pumped billions of dollars into the local economy.

But it appears that money train is slowing to a halt.

The oil wells are producing far fewer barrels and producers are opting for cheaper exploration in foreign countries. But Representative Tommy Merritt believes he has an idea to keep oil revenue pumping in East Texas.

A scene at the Kilgore Oil Museum depicts what the boomtown must have looked like just after Columbus 'Dad' Joiner discovered the Daisy Bradford #3. Joe White is the director at the museum.

"The depression hits in 1929. America and the world is in the grips of the greatest depression ever known and yet this man now 70 persists in the drilling. He drills the third well and proves all the experts wrong," says White.

That oil well soon expanded creating the East Texas oil fields. In it's hay day the oil fields produced 300,000 barrels a day. But today only a fraction of that.

Producers believing these wells are mostly dry are pulling out. That says Joe would be devastating to the economy, "if you shut the field down completely right now it would have a major negative impact."

Representative Tommy Merritt believes he has a solution. Geologists believe there is still more than 600 million barrels of oil left underground. Merritt wants to pass a bill funding a new study that could find the oil.

Joe says keeping the oil fields will keep our economy going. "As long as we continue to produce the east Texas field it will generate jobs. It will generate revenue for the towns, the schools the colleges and all the businesses."

The study would cost the state 2.2 million dollars. But Representative Merritt says it's worth it instead of waiting for jobs, revenue, and oil wells to dry up.

Representative Merritt says the bill to fund the study died Monday in the house. But, he says, he has already tacked it onto an education bill and Merritt expects it to pass into law.

Amy Tatum reporting.