Stories from the Permian Basin: Kayley Shoup

portrait of woman smiling

Kayley Shoup

Mason Cummings

Kayley Shoup was born and raised in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and is an organizer with Citizens Caring for the Future, a group of community members who support protecting the air, water and public health. We spoke with her about her experience living next door to the Permian oil and gas boom. Here’s what she had to say: (This interview was edited and shortened for clarity) 

“I was born and raised in Carlsbad. My parents are still here. My grandparents are here. Most of my aunts and uncles. I grew up in a very tight knit community. 

There's always been oil and gas in this region to an extent. But before the fracking boom, there wasn’t anything like there is now. [Carlsbad] just changed from a small town to a small town that now has about 20,000 transient community members and also has some of the biggest corporations in the world making billions of dollars, impacting our local community, our local politics, local organizations. It's just been constant growth.   

I left home in 2010 and when I moved back in 2018, I noticed the day-to-day changes immediately—traffic, cost of housing, things like that. But within a year of coming back is when a lot of people close to me or that were acquaintances started getting diagnosed with rare and aggressive cancers at relatively young ages. It was hearing those stories, being around those people realizing: ‘Oh, wow, I'm only 25 and I know five people, one of which is younger than me, with a rare aggressive cancer.’ 

That's when I started to think, there must be something different about here, and the only thing that I had seen change in the community at that time was oil and gas. 

It took me about a year to find out that Citizens Caring for the Future, which is the advocacy group I work with, existed. I did not know that there was a local group that was standing up [to oil and gas] and just really asking questions about what's going on here. 

In the past five years, [there’s been] a 40 percent increase of people in Eddy County, specifically living within a half-mile of oil and gas [drilling]. That is well documented, well studied, and that has negative health impacts associated with it. It is a trend that's going to continue if production keeps going up here.  

What I want to protect is our health and I want folks to understand that the illnesses we see here are tied to something. They’re not just random.” 

Tell the Department of the Interior to reform the broken oil and gas program!