New Mexico's oilfield counties struggle for state construction funding, metros get most

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

Although oil production in Eddy County generated up to a third of New Mexico’s budget, the county got just 2.5 percent of allocated state funds for construction projects during the 2020 Legislative Session.

Lea County, which reportedly generated another third of the State’s budget also via oil and gas operations, got just 1.6 percent of the State’s capital outlay funds, allocated each session to counties for repairs and improvements to public infrastructure.

Eddy County Community Services Director Wes Hooper said the recent session was “frustrating” as more resources were allocated to larger urban areas like Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

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As higher population zones tend to have more representation in the Legislature, Hooper said rural areas like Eddy County, which generated more than half of the state's revenue and led to an $800 million surplus this year, often miss out.

“The more representation you have, the more money you get,” Hooper said. “When you get up there in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, there’s more representation there so that’s where the money goes.”

Of the about $528.2 million earmarked for capital outlay projects this year, Eddy County received about $13 million in projects or just 2.5 percent of the funds.

More:New Mexico House committee kills bills to support donations for rural road projects

Lea County was granted about $8.2 million or just $1.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Bernalillo County containing New Mexico’s most populous city Albuquerque received about $125.1 million or about 23.7 percent of the State’s capital outlay spending.

Doña Ana County containing the City of Las Cruces, and Santa Fe County containing the State capital got 6.1 and 8 percent of the budget, respectively.

Capital outlay funds are divided between the House and Senate, and then allocated based on the number of lawmakers from each county. 

New Mexico State Rep. Cathrynn Brown addresses roadway safety in Eddy County, May 22, 2018 at the Pecos River Village Conference Center.

State Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55) of Carlsbad said her region received funds for several important projects. 

"In terms of where we allocated, we put it to projects that were very important to the region," she said. "What I tend to do is fund infrastructure projects, and water and sewer. I stayed to what I think is most important. Those are things that affect public safety and essential services."

Here’s a look at what New Mexico’s two biggest oil and gas counties received for local infrastructure improvements from State lawmakers.

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Eddy County

Eddy County was granted about $2.8 million to construct a southeast relief road to divert oil and gas traffic around Carlsbad.

The project would cut down on traffic jams, and make the area safer for drivers, Hooper said.

Separate legislation to provide $25 million to the project was tabled during the session.

“Trying to get funding to support our needs is really tough,” Hooper said. “We’ve got such an influx of population; the infrastructure is not meeting our needs. It causes a lot of frustration.”

Brown said Eddy County's roads must be improved as the industry continues its boom in operations, adding snarling truck traffic to city streets. 

"We need the safest roads you can possibly have, and bring them up to better standards," she said. "We want safer roads and highways. We have higher traffic volumes. That makes for more variables when people get on the highways.

"I think we deserve more because of the value we provide to the state."

More:Eddy County approves agreement with state on bypass work


To continue work on remediating the Carlsbad Brine Well, which was deemed unstable and could collapse the city’s busiest intersection and oilfield thoroughfare at the junction of U.S. Highways 285 and 62/180, Carlsbad received $5 million in state funds.

During the 2018 session, a total of $43 million was allocated to the project – a combination of state, county and city funds.

Recently, a previously unknown cavity was discovered as the former well was backfilled, leading to possible $8.8 million shortfall in funds.

Carlsbad also got $1 million to purchase rescue vehicles, and $200,000 for police cars.

More:State may know exact size of northern Brine Well cavity


The City of Artesia got about $1.2 million for ladder truck purchases, $450,000 for a vacuum truck and $52,000 for new city vans.


State lawmakers provided $800,000 to the Village of Loving for improvements to its sewer and water treatment facilities.


The remote ranching community of Hope received $500,000 in capital outlay for its water pump.

More:Carlsbad and regional airports share federal money for improvements

Lea County

Just east of Eddy County, Lea received $750,000 to upgrade New Mexico Junior College’s ventilation system, along with $150,000 toward a vocational training building.


To purchase ambulances, Hobbs got $800,000 in capital outlay dollars, along with $1.5 million for a firetruck and aerial platform, and $100,000 to the Hobbs’ Veteran’s Memorial Complex.

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An appropriation of $850,000 was made to construct a rodeo in Eunice.


The small town of Jal got $650,000 for building improvements and $200,000 to water storage improvements.


The Lea County seat Lovington got the most projects funded in the county via capital outlay funds. For improvements to its county courthouse, Lovington received $983,000, along with another $600,000 for improvements to the downtown area.

Another $150,000 went to improvements at the Lovington Theater, and $200,000 was allocated to a veteran’s memorial.


A total of $340,000 was awarded to Tatum for various vehicle purchases, and improvement to its water tower.

Live somewhere else? Here's a list of all the State's capital outlay project by county.

More news from Santa Fe:

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.