Sue and James Franklin run a rock and mineral shop in Balmorhea, Texas, a small picturesque town known for hosting the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Their shop is about 15 miles from their home in Verhalen, a place they describe as too tiny to be called a town — only about 10 people live there. The couple never imagined the area, on the southwest edge of the Permian Basin, would become an industrial wasteland, but they say that transformation has begun the last two years.
Texas’ latest oil boom, driven by the fracking industry and crude oil exports, has brought skyrocketing air, noise, and light pollution to small southwest Texas towns and the surrounding lands which are known for majestic mountain views and brilliant starry night skies. With the oil industry come bright lights illuminating an otherwise almost perfectly dark sky. The Franklins’ home on a narrow rural road is now surrounded by fracking sites. On a clear day they can see 20 of these sites from their 10-acre plot of land.
The roads in the area used to be empty, but that’s no longer the case. Today, increased traffic — mostly trucks serving the oil and gas industry — makes even pulling out of the Franklins’ driveway dangerous. James, a Vietnam veteran and retired pilot, has been in a couple accidents caused by truck drivers that “don’t give a shit.”
Meanwhile, the famous pool located in Balmorhea State Park — known as “the oasis of West Texas — has been shut down for about a year due to cracks in its structure, which some locals blame on…