November marks the emergence of two issues requiring close scrutiny: Rule 13 and the Lesser Prairie Chicken
Late last month, several PBPA board members and I traveled to Austin to testify on the Railroad Commission’s proposed changes to Rule 13, which addresses new casing, cementing and completion requirements.
The Rule has not been updated in 25 years or so and many technical advances have occurred in that time. It is necessary to codify some of the more recent “best practices” to give guidance to operators and the Commission. However, the proposed Rule, as drafted, would have a chilling economic impact on drilling activity in the Permian Basin and many of the proposed requirements are technologically impossible or unsafe.
Fortunately, the Commission has held a number of meetings with operators in an effort to listen to and incorporate industry input. Everyone understands the need to protect our valuable water sources, and each operator wishes to do so. PBPA will work hard to ensure that we reach that goal of protecting those sources, applying the most sensible means possible. The Commission has extended the comment period until November 20th, 2012.
Speaking of extending comment periods, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) has postponed the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) as Endangered until after the elections this month. The terms of the 2010 settlement between the USFW and the Centers for Biological Diversity and the WildEarth Guardians required USFW to list over 250 species as Endangered over the succeeding five years. Once a listing proposal is issued, the USFW has one year to determine whether the species should be listed as Threatened, Endangered or Not Warranted for listing.
The “occupied range” of the LPC encompasses more than 18 million acres of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. A Threatened or Endangered finding could dramatically affect oil and gas development in the region. Of course, it would also affect agriculture, wind energy and any other activity which disturbs the surface.
Once the USFW listing proposal is released in November, PBPA will analyze and comment on all of the scientific information available on the LPC in an attempt to prevent an unnecessary Endangered finding.
In addition to presenting the best available science, PBPA is working with our allies at the state wildlife agency level as well as our sister oil and gas associations.
The state wildlife agencies from all five states have been managing LPCs and their habitat for decades and none of the state agencies believe the federal government should step in and take over this process.
Our association allies agree. Working with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, as well as the five state wildlife agencies and the Bureau of Land Management, we are working on developing a voluntary Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) to help direct conservation efforts and prevent a listing. We have a draft document under consideration by the five state agencies and are working towards an agreement that the majority of operators can agree to.
This is a massive undertaking but we hope it will lead to a Not Warranted decision by the USFW similar to the decision on the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard.
While all of this is going on, we are preparing for the upcoming Texas and New Mexico legislative sessions. More on that next month.