Reverend David Rogers has lived in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where he is a local pastor, for over two decades. We spoke with him about his experience living next door to the Permian oil and gas boom. Here’s what he had to say: (This interview was edited and shortened for clarity)
“I grew up in New Mexico, in Albuquerque. And after a time in college and the U.S. Coast Guard and then the seminary, I just wanted to come home to the Land of Enchantment. I’ve been in Carlsbad for 21 years now.
I love this community. It has been a great place to raise my children and now my grandchildren. But over the last decade, oil and gas has really moved in on a level that is bewildering, frightening and has also been very helpful.
[The oil and gas industry] has brought in a lot of jobs, brought in a lot of infrastructure and economic development, but it has had a tremendous cost to the environment and to human lives and to health. I just want reasonable, responsible regulation and I want the oil and gas companies to be held accountable financially for the damage they're causing.
One of the things that I am advocating for is what I call a just transition. We're not just saying oil is bad, pull the plug, and if you're in it, you can go to a bad place. But let's take those skills that are so valuable to the oil industry and convert those skills to manufacturing solar arrays.
But that's a hard sell when your whole life and your whole family's legacy has been in an oil field. And it's hard to convince yourself that I can make good money doing this.
I see my role as a public advocate, to speak out, to keep the reality of what's happening in the forefront of people's minds and in the community. It's also something that I have had the opportunity to take to the global stage. In 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Madrid, Spain and speak before the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 25, and address the concerns that we have in the Permian Basin.
On a personal level, I have had to wrestle periodically in my 30 years as a pastor with the reality that when I take a stand that other people, maybe my church, maybe some in the community find they don't like, I have to face that. And I oftentimes will say, is this worth the potential danger? But by the grace of God, there I go.
We've got to do better. This is a human issue.
And regardless of who you voted for president those toxic fumes are destroying the same planet we all live on. Some of my kids still live here. Some of my grandkids live here. And I want them to have a clean place to grow up. I want my grandchildren to have a home. I really do.”