Cornyn, Evans, Bugg kick off PSP 5th anniversary

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) speaks during a fireside chat at the Permian Strategic Partnership’s fifth anniversary celebration Friday at Odessa College. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans and Bruce Bugg Jr., chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, helped the Permian Strategic Partnership mark its upcoming fifth anniversary Friday.

The event included a roundtable discussion with energy executives and a fireside chat in the Zant Room at Odessa College that focused on transportation, healthcare, workforce and education.

Evans, the Permian Strategic Partnership chairman, said PSP is a partnership of 27 organizations — 25 energy companies and two university systems.

“We’ve had tremendous success. We’ve invested about $165 million and we’ve brought into the area about $1.5 billion. Because of that, the Permian Basin community is safer and stronger. The education system is improving and so we’re highlighting a number of those investments that we’ve been making, but also highlighting the public-private partnerships we have with the state of Texas (and) with the federal government,” Evans said.

He added that Bugg and Cornyn work with PSP to find funds to bring to the Permian Basin and support the initiatives that PSP is focused on.

“I want all the people of the Permian Basin to know it’s because of them that America is the No.1 producer of oil and gas in the world. We’re at the very center of it right here. If we were a country, we’d be the third-largest producing country in the world. We’ve got the most secure supply of energy in the world right here. So all the people of the Permian Basin need to know that and what a blessing this, quite frankly, is for all of us out here and for the country (and) for our fellow citizens,” Evans said.

For the future, Evans said PSP will continue to grow.

“We’re very focused on education. We’re going to continue to strengthen our education systems. And when I hear that only 40 percent of fourth graders can read at grade level in the area that’s a problem. So we’re going to continue to focus on that; see how we can support education across the Permian Basin,” he added.

Texas Transportation Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr., left, Permian Strategic Partnership Chairman Don Evans, center, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) take part in a fireside chat Friday at Odessa College. (Michael Bauer||Odessa American)

Evans noted the behavioral health hospital that has started construction between Odessa and Midland and that more healthcare facilities are going to be brought in.

He added that they are working closely with the state and federal government on infrastructure, safe roads, making roads safer and continuing to develop workforce programs.

“We’re training them locally and it may not just be oilfield. It may be nurses. It may be doctors, so we’re very focused on continuing to develop the workforce in this area,” Evans said.

Cornyn said to him it’s about quality of life.

“We have incredible natural resources here and incredible companies and innovators who are producing those resources for the benefit not only of the region, of the state, but literally for the world. But it’s going to require workers and people who want to come to work and participate in that, which means life issues like healthcare, education, transportation, all these issues are so critical to their success here and the continued development of this incredible natural resource from this region,” Cornyn said.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) speaks during a fireside chat at the Permian Strategic Partnership’s fifth anniversary celebration Friday at Odessa College. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

Ultimately, he said, this means more jobs so more people can come to Texas, find employment, work for their families, put food on the table and pursue their dreams.

“To me, that’s what makes this so exciting,” Cornyn said.

From the standpoint of the state, Bugg said the Permian Basin has about 11 percent of the fatalities statewide.

“We are committed to safety. We’re committed to bringing that number down and so as chairman of the Texas Department of Transportation, what I’m doing is … trying to bring the state dollars to bear on improving the roads, improving the engineer so that the fatalities in the Permian Basin go down dramatically.”

“But it’s a shared responsibility. Safety is a shared responsibility and so we’re going to try to do what we can to engineer the roads correctly so that Secretary Evans has the ability to say to the Permian Strategic Partnership and to the community at large in Midland and Odessa that TxDOT is doing what they can to engineer the roads the right way (and) to improve the roads the right way. We’re spending literally billions of dollars in this area to do that,” Bugg said.

They had committed $3 billion, but are now committing to $6.3 billion just for Permian Basin infrastructure improvements, he added.

Cornyn said a lot of the issues brought up by Evans and Bugg have broad application.

“Obviously, they’ve got specific application here, but as we discussed upstairs, access to healthcare and the impact of things like telehealth, particularly in rural parts of our state. It’s hard to train enough professionals to provide the resources, the services that we need, so a renewed commitment to things like expanding access to telehealth, making sure access to broadband is available,” Cornyn said.

He added that so much of the education system had to go remote during COVID.

“That’s actually opened our eyes to new possibilities and expanding access to education. A lot of this has, as I said, broader application, but obviously I represent the 30 million people in Texas, so my focus is on what can we do in this area, which is a national treasure, to develop it and to make sure that this potential continues to reap benefits for the people of Texas,” Cornyn said.

He added that it was exciting to have everyone together Friday and great to be back in West Texas “where people actually believe in working together and finding common ground and solving problems.”

Cornyn said that’s what Texas does so successfully. He noted that the one size fits all mentality in Washington does not fit in Texas and Texas has to show the rest of the world what that looks like.

“That’s not necessarily because of government. It’s because of the initiative of private citizens and people who are willing to create opportunities and take advantage of the wonderful God-given natural resources … for the benefit of the community and the nation and literally for the planet,” he said.