Stories from the Permian Basin: Thomas Treadaway

portrait of man with long hair and trees in the back

Thomas Treadaway

Mason Cummings

Thomas Treadaway was born and raised in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and witnessedd the boom and bust cycles of the oil and gas industry in his own backyard. We spoke with him about his experience. Here’s what he had to say: (This interview was edited and shortened for clarity) 

“Ever since I was a little kid, you always hear about the oil fields being in a boom or in a depression.  Even as a kid, you could see it. The price [of oil and gas] would drop, and everybody would leave. And once the money left, there was nothing. Whenever it would come back, they'd make a scramble to fix it again. 

Growing up here, it's easy to see that the industry is dirty. It's as dirty as what they pull out of the ground. 

There's a town 30 minutes away. It's called Artesia, New Mexico. And within 15 minutes of leaving Carlsbad, you can smell the gas refinery. And as a child, whenever we were leaving, I would always ask: ‘What is that smell?’ And it took several years for us to finally place what it was. It’s smog, whether it's visible or not, you can always smell it. It feels like an oppressive presence.  

We have a partnership here that is called the Carlsbad Early College High School Program. Part of the funding to enable this program comes from Chevron. And in return, once a year, the seniors would be led to a job poaching seminar to teach us about the good sides of the industry and to get us to sign contracts when most of us were still 17 at the time. But they could guarantee us high wages that no other high school graduates could get in this town. 

The only thing they talked about in this seminar was about the opportunities you could get and how big their company was, how much they helped their employees.

They never talked about their impacts or mentioned anything environmental.  

I really believe that whenever [oil and gas] finally meets its big end, the entire state is going to collapse in a lot of ways. There's going to be a lot of people leaving who had no interest in staying, and there's no fallback plan. And whenever it collapses, there's not going to be anything left. It’s going to be like a Wild West ghost town. Whenever it collapses, there'll just be nobody here.” 

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