A ruling in mid-June rewards months and even years of diligent effort by
Permian Basin energy interests and this region on the whole.
At the time of this article being written, June 13th, we have received word that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made the decision not to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species. This decision is momentous and I cannot give enough credit to Ben Shepperd and the PBPA staff for the months of effort that have gone into this issue. It is certainly appropriate for the Permian Basin membership to extend our appreciation to Secretary of Interior Salazar and Director Ash for making the decision that is based on science and certainly fits the facts of this particular species. In making the announcement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was clear that a prime factor in their decision to not list the species was based on the fact that the industry had voluntarily dedicated more than 650,000 acres to the Texas and New Mexico conservation plans. This contributed acreage comprises 88 percent of the proposed lizard habitat area and has been heralded as an example of how industry and the federal agencies can work together toward a common goal. It is not possible to thank everyone who has put time and work into this effort, but I do need to recognize the contributions of Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn, our U.S. Representative Mike Conaway, and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.
Our primary victory is that we have been successful in saving jobs for the Permian Basin communities. The ability of local businesses, oil and gas companies, farmers, and ranchers to engage in economic activity has been preserved and the Permian Basin Petroleum Association has provided the necessary science to demonstrate that economic activity has not resulted in an endangerment of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. It may be anticipated that this decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have some value as a precedent when it comes to reviewing other proposed endangered species listings. How this particular decision will ultimately play out in the future remains to be seen.
As one might imagine, this decision will not be the end of this issue. An initial responsibility of PBPA will be to defend the non-listing decision made by the Fish and Wildlife Service. We have anticipated that this decision will be challenged by other stakeholders and environmental groups. PBPA is committed to stand by the Fish and Wildlife Service in supporting their decision. And we have indication from other organizations and individuals that they will join PBPA in defending this decision.
While we are defending the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard listing the PBPA is also in the early stages of analyzing additional endangered species listings. The next species issue for the Permian Basin will be the Lesser Prairie Chicken. That challenge will begin in earnest in September. Other species are lined up behind the Lesser Prairie Chicken. So our efforts in the endangered species arena are just beginning.
A final focus of PBPA is to advocate for fundamental reforms to the federal environmental statutes. Environmental impact, or potential environmental impact, must be balanced against and take into account corresponding economic benefit. Potentially impacted parties should have standing to challenge proposed endangered species listings prior to a listing/non-listing decision. A final reform will come when and if [[[ Ben – I’m not sure here. Just trying to bring some clarity to this line ]]]]] the equivalent of our Texas tort reform is applied to federal environmental statutes. The regulatory scheme that allows environmental attorneys to collect fees from the federal government has reached the point of abuse. However, given the work ahead of us, the news of the day is that PBPA has won a huge victory for its membership!