What Right Looks Like
West Texas provides energy to America
By Hope Fernandez Williams
Here in West Texas, we take pride in the fact our region supplies much of America with the energy it needs and has helped reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil. The United States’ energy security is largely a result of the growth that has happened in the Permian Basin – including my home Winkler County, which is 60 percent Latino. Knowing how we contribute makes us all feel good. Unfortunately, we also feel the pain when the economics of the industry turn south.
I know many of us or our neighbors have been affected by the downturn and continue to keep all of you in my thoughts.
Thankfully, there are “Good Neighbors” within the industry, including ExxonMobil, who continue to support our community when the chips are down. Even as the world struggles with the response to COVID-19, they are continuing to press ahead with important infrastructure projects that will play an important role in our economic recovery – and they are extending a helping hand to our community in the meantime. We should be thankful ExxonMobil continues to invest in Winkler County, and in my opinion, their approach is a good example for doing things the right way.
A little over two years ago, representatives from ExxonMobil began to reach out to local elected officials and the members of our community to share with us their plans to expand their presence in the local area. They had recently purchased their Wink Terminal, which was a small crude oil storage facility that accepted crude oil from the area mostly by truck delivery.
Their first project, the Delaware Connector Pipeline has begun to change all that. The recently completed pipeline will replace those trucks – and relieve some traffic – by delivering Permian crude from southern New Mexico straight to newly-built storage tanks built at the expanding Wink Terminal that is becoming a local crude oil transportation hub.
ExxonMobil’s Wink Terminal is also an important component of a larger crude oil pipeline project, the Wink to Webster Pipeline System. ExxonMobil is the lead partner in a joint venture building a 650-mile pipeline from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast. This project has been one of the bright lights during this dreadful COVID-19 period, continuing to be a source of well-paying jobs by implementing healthy workplace practices in order to help keep the job sites safe and open. On top of that, the joint venture already has shipper commitments to fill the pipeline, which eventually will be capable of transporting more than 1 million barrels per day of crude from the Permian to the Gulf Coast, contributing to continued recovery and growth in West Texas.
Constructed with American-made steel pipe, the Wink to Webster pipeline system is a safe and reliable method to transport crude. It also has created thousands of well-paying construction jobs, will reduce truck traffic further and provide millions of tax dollars to Texas communities. The important thing about pipeline projects is that while rig numbers might go up and down, pipelines continue to provide a steady flow of tax revenues communities can count on.
But more important than revenue is safety. I have toured these construction projects multiple times and witnessed the commitment to safety firsthand. I was required to wear my hard hat, safety vest and steel-toed boots. And I’ve seen pictures how their work crews now are wearing masks and are social distancing. They are even working with our first responders, trying to help improve their capabilities. They say safety is their number one priority, and I can attest, they take it very seriously!
They are also serious about their commitment to being a Good Neighbor. First of all, they made sure everyone knew about these expansion plans. Our community remembers well the open house they held that featured informational displays and employees who answered the community’s questions about the project. Since then, they have kept me and my other colleagues in local government well informed every step of the way.
In addition ExxonMobil believes in supporting our communities and the organizations that support our neighbors. ExxonMobil and its Wink to Webster joint venture partners have contributed to many local groups, including our local 4-H club and the Wink-Loving school district, which received support for STEM education, new computers and our local athletics.
Thanks to a generous grant from ExxonMobil, the Tapia Center at Rice University brought its STEM Professional Development Camp to Midland. Fifty teachers from the local Kermit, Wink-Loving and Midland school districts spent the week tackling various STEM challenges and learning about project-based learning for their classrooms. I had the privilege of attending the graduation dinner at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum and was proud to see two teachers from Kermit receive awards for their participation in this innovative program. Helping teachers encourage our youth to pursue science-based fields is so important.
The Winkler County Recreation Center, a favorite gathering center for our community, received a fresh coat of paint thanks to a grant from the Wink to Webster partners to purchase paint and supplies – not to mention manpower to get the job done. These folks aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work!
What I really find impressive is how that have integrated with our community. Our community Easter Egg Drop, Kermit Celebration Days, Chamber of Commerce events and the Halloween Festival are all supported by Wink to Webster. The joint venture partners also have become important and reliable supporters of the Winkler County Ministerial Alliance, which provides food for those most in need.
And when COVID-19 fell upon us, ExxonMobil donated hospital-grade hand sanitizer produced in its refineries on an emergency basis to first responders, hospitals and other civic organizations in need. The hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer they distributed was a very welcome sight since it was so hard to source – even for our area governments.
These are people who work and live here and are proud to be members of our community. I am thrilled that ExxonMobil is making such a positive impact – both economically and socially – in the Permian Basin, especially here in Winkler County. As far as I am concerned, they are the model for how companies should invest in our communities.
Hope Fernandez Williams
These writings are in no way the opinion of Winkler County government officials but rather my own opinions based on my observations and experiences.