Gulf Coast Resources

Greater Corpus Christi’s Most ‘Utility Burdened’ Neighborhoods

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Corpus Christi, overlooking Bill Greehey Valero Refinery. Image: Center for Land Use Interpretation

Residents of Corpus Christi, home to six refineries and the busiest oil export port in the United States, suffer from a utility burden that is more than twice the national average. Deceleration’s mapping project utilizing Greenlink Analytics data shows how race, utility burden, asthma, and lack of health insurance is linked for many across the four-county Corpus area.

Corpus Christi, Texas, a vibrant coastal city built up around large bays and behind an expansive and wild barrier island chain, is increasingly grappling with environmental and public health damages brought on by polluting industry and resulting global warming. Rising temperatures and sea levels due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels are exacerbating coastal flooding and tearing at the fabric of this coastal city. In recent years, the port has grown to become the nation’s largest oil exporter. Toxic releases from an assortment of petrochemical plants—including a half dozen oil and gas refineries—are a daily reality for residents. Contaminated drinking water prompts regular boil water notices. In 2016, the city faced a water crisis when the corrosive chemical Indulin AA-86, an asphalt emulsifier leaked into the water supply.

This summer’s weeks of triple-digit temperatures has been a blistering fireball that has crashed past temperature records as the world hurtles into what is likely to be its hottest year on record. Grassroots efforts in and around Corpus are underway, however, in the hopes of shifting the city and region in a more sustainable direction by challenging the interests of damaging extractive industries. Stiff resistance has met ocean desalination efforts led by local industry and some elected leaders that threaten the heath of the bays and Gulf of Mexico fisheries.

Utility burden, an often overwhelming reality here is brought on by low wages and the price of electricity, gas, and water, keep many trapped in poverty. This is compounded by poor air quality, resulting high asthma rates, and health insurance premiums priced beyond the reach of many residents. Using data from Greenlink Analytics, Deceleration is exploring how these interlocking forces—the result of local, state, and federal policy choices—punish the residents of the Greater Corpus Christi region. Scroll below for our key findings about the high cost of basic utilities, asthma rates, insurance gaps, and the links to race. In coming weeks we will be posting maps illustrating how high temperatures, brought on by global warming and exacerbated by the urban heat island effect, impact some Corpus-area residents more than others, threatening their daily survival.

This post may be updated as we continue to review the data. If this information is useful to you, consider supporting Deceleration’s work with a $5/month pledge. — Greg Harman

Great Corpus Christi Region, Utility Burden

Due to significantly lower median incomes, Kleberg County has the most utility burdened residents per capita in the Greater Corpus Christi area. Utility burden is a term used to define households forced to spend more than 6 percent of their annual take-home income on utilities, including electric, gas, and water. In the United States, the national average paid for utilities is 3 percent of a household’s annual income. Utility burden is significantly higher than the national average across the Corpus Christi region. In Kleberg County, the average amount spent on utilities is 8.28 percent.

Tract NameEnergy Burden
Aransas County, Texas6.9
Kleberg County, Texas8.28
Nueces County, Texas6.63
San Patricio County, Texas6.89

Kleberg County, Texas

Kingsville, Texas. Image: Google Earth

Kleberg County, Severe Utility Burden

Number of households paying more than 10 percent for utilities:

Census Tract 201 (Kleberg County)278
Census Tract 202 (NE Kingsville)1,228
Census Tract 203 (NW Kingsville)644
Census Tract 204 (SW Kingsville)833
Census Tract 205 (SE Kingsville)563

Kleberg: Severe Utility Burden + Asthma

Census TractHomes with Severe Energy BurdenAsthma Rate
Census Tract 201 (Kleberg County)2780.083
Census Tract 202 (NE Kingsville)1,2280.092
Census Tract 203 (NW Kingsville)6440.09
Census Tract 204 (SW Kingsville)8330.085
Census Tract 205 (SE Kingsville)5630.08

Kleberg: Severe Utility Burden + Lack of Insurance

Census TractHomes with Severe Energy BurdenPercent Uninsured
Census Tract 201 (Kleberg County)27832
Census Tract 202 (NE Kingsville)1,22849
Census Tract 203 (NW Kingsville)64435
Census Tract 204 (SW Kingsville)83333.8
Census Tract 205 (SE Kingsville)56332

Kleberg: Severe Utility Burden + People of Color

As above maps show, the northeast side of Kingsville—98 percent people of color, Black (top left) and Latinx/Hispanic (top center) in particular—also has the highest levels of severe energy burden, percent of families without insurance, and asthma rates. More Native Americans (top right) and Asians (bottom left) live in majority white southeast side of town.

Tract NameEnergy Burden Above 10 Percent% BIPOC
Census Tract 2012786.2
Census Tract 2021,0739.8
Census Tract 2034908.7
Census Tract 2048337.7
Census Tract 2056657.5

Nueces County, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas. Image: Google Earth

Nueces County: Severe Utility Burden

Due to its much larger population, Nueces County has far more households experiencing severe utility burden (considered over 10 percent of annual income).

Number of households paying more than 10 percent for utilities:

Aransas County, Texas3,592
Kleberg County, Texas3,546
Nueces County, Texas35,210
San Patricio County, Texas6,044
Number of households per county spending more than 10 percent of their annual income on electricity, gas, and water. Source: Greenlink Analytics

Corpus Christi, Severe Utility Burden

Areas with the most homes and apartments living with severe energy burden above 10 percent of annual income are in the Central Corpus communities around the South Bay area and south of the Naval Air Station above Flour Bluff (1,287 and 1,262 homes, respectively). Next on the list is the communities around Broadmoor Park (Census Tract 15), which host 1,095 homes in severe energy burden. After that are the communities around North San Pedro and Southeast Robstown followed by the Central City Census Tract 16.01.

Census Tract 27.041,287
Census Tract 30.011,262
Census Tract 151,095
Census Tract 56.021,025
Census Tract 16.011,017

Here’s the raw data.

Corpus Christi: Severe Utility Burden + Asthma

Residents around Wilmot Park and Wiggins Park in the Central City, areas of severe energy burden, also have the highest rates of asthma (10.6 and 10.4 percent, respectively). This is matched by residents of the La Molina neighborhood (10.4 percent asthma). These areas are followed by those living with severe energy burden south of the Naval Air Station and in the Robstown area with asthma rates of 10.2 and 9.6 percent, respectively. The average asthma rate in Nueces County is 8.8 percent.

Raw data here.

Corpus Christi: Severe Utility Burden + Lack of Insurance

Texas leads the nation in the percentage of families without health insurance—a whopping 18 percent of residents in all. In many communities of Corpus Christi a staggering 40 percent and 50 percent of households lack insurance. Both Wilmot Park and Wiggins Park communities, for example, have more than 50 percent uninsured residents and are saddled with severe energy burden. However, the intersection of severe energy burden and lack of insurance is most acute in Central City (48.7 percent uninsured with 1,017 households under severe energy burden), around Del Mar College Heritage Campus (48.6 percent uninsured with 1,095 living with severe energy burden), followed by the south and east sides of Robstown (50.6 percent uninsured and 1,025 severely utility burdened).

Raw data here.

Corpus Christi: Severe Utility Burden + People of Color

Areas with severe energy burden, high levels of uninsured residents, and high asthma also correspond to areas with high numbers of people of color. Neighborhoods beneath the Naval Air Station, for example, and around downtown and the Central City, also have some of the largest populations of Black residents. This reality is repeated with Latinx/Hispanic residents, who make up more than 90 percent of south and east Robstown and large pockets of downtown and Central City neighborhoods.

San Patricio County, Texas

Aransas Pass, San Patricio County, Texas. Image: Google Earth

San Patricio County, Severe Utility Burden

Tract NameUtility Burden Above 10 Percent
Aransas Pass (North) (Census Tract 102.02)931
Sinton (Census Tract 110)609
Doyle & Bayfront Colonias (Census Tract 106.01)590
Taft (Census Tract 108)530
Mathis (Census Tract 113)499

San Patricio County: Severe Utility Burden + Asthma

North Aransas Pass (Census Tract 202.02) 9.1 asthma rate and severe utility burden impacting 853 residents. Sinton (Census Tract 110) has a 9.1 percent asthma rate and 609. Mathis (Census Tract 113) has a 9.2 percent astha rate and 499 residents living in severe utility burden. The county average asthma rate is 8.5 percent.

San Patricio County: Severe Utility Burden + Lack of Insurance

San Patricio County: Severe Utility Burden + People of Color

Largest correspondance of race and utility burden occurs in San Patricio predominantly in areas with Latinx/Hispanic-heavy colonias, such as Mathis is (90.7 percent Latinx/Hispanic), Sinton (78 percent), and Taft (85 percent).

Aransas County, Texas

Rockport, Aransas County, Texas. Image: Google Earth

Aransas County, Severe Utility Burden

Nearly half of the households in Aransas County outside Rockport suffer from severe utility burden (1,128 of 2,411), where the median income is $39,742. In Rockport proper that declines to 462 of 1,405 households. Upper-income Key Allegro, where the median income is $97,962, more than double the rest of the county, 147 of 606 households suffer from severe energy burden.

Aransas County: Severe Utility Burden + Asthma

Asthma rates in Rockport are 9.9 percent; 7.3 in Key Allegro area, and 8.5 across most of the rest of the county.

Aransas County: Severe Utility Burden + Lack of Insurance

At 20 percent uninsured, most of the Aransas County is just over the 18 percent state average of households lacking insurance. In South Rockport, 32.2 percent of households lack insurance. That number is 28.8 in north Rockport and Fulton. Uninsured households in Key Allegro number a mere 12.2 percent.

Aransas County: Severe Utility Burden + People of Color

Most of Aransas County is majority white (80 percent). Latinx/Hispanic population of Rockport and Fulton is roughly 40 percent.


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