As I write this, the Texas legislature is at its peak of activity and PBPA is right in the middle of it. Before I discuss the latest legislative activities, I want to give credit to a Texas state agency.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), an agency who has had its fair share of criticism, has been a fantastic ally with respect to working with industry on the Lesser Prairie Chicken issue.
TPWD has led the five-state (TX, NM, OK, KS, CO) wildlife agency effort to develop a range-wide plan to promote conservation and energy development. Last month the agencies submitted their plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a plan that included much of our input on best management practices and reasonable conservation efforts.
The states are unified in their resolve that the Lesser Prairie Chicken should not be listed as Threatened or Endangered and that the states are in the best position to manage the bird and its habitat. We could not agree more.
It is great to have these allies in our uphill challenge to prevent the Chicken from being listed.
The decision not to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) appears to be in jeopardy, though. Last month, the Defenders of Wildlife announced their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on their decision not to list the DSL. The Defenders claim that the Texas Conservation Plan for the DSL lacks transparency and is insufficient to protect the Lizard.
From the Defender’s press release:
“With the survival of the dunes sagebrush lizard hanging by a thread, the Fish and Wildlife Service should not have relied on paper-thin promises from the Texas Comptroller’s Office to deny protection to this disappearing animal,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This kind of baldly political decision was commonplace under the Bush administration, but is deeply disappointing from President Obama.”
Interestingly, the Defenders have not mentioned any similar concerns over the New Mexico DSL conservation plan, which protects 80 percent of the Lizard habitat.
PBPA intends to support the USFW in this matter. We believe the Service made the correct decision not to list the Lizard primarily because the best available science does not justify a listing but also because of the substantial conservation efforts underway.
Let me get back to the Texas legislative session for a moment. As Mark has mentioned [see his column on preceding spread], the Railroad Commission Sunset bill is a top priority for us. There continues to be an effort among some to create a “super-chairman” at the Commission. The most recent version of this concept would require that the three commissioners would elect a chairman from among themselves. Under this scenario, the chairman would control all aspects of managing the Commission and set legislative policy and priorities—essentially rendering the other two commissioners meaningless.
PBPA remains opposed to changing the structure of the Commission.
The House has passed sweeping water planning legislation, which includes taking approximately two billion dollars from the Rainy Day Fund to help fund infrastructure projects.
There is quite a bit of attention on water use, reuse and disposal. One of the primary legislative efforts along these lines is to get operators to obtain a permit from groundwater districts in the area of operations. We are working with the groundwater district folks to come to some agreement which provides them the information they need for planning and conservation purposes along with the industry certainty that our operations will not be impaired unreasonably or unnecessarily.
PBPA is tracking about 150 different bills at the moment. For a complete list, please go to www.PBPA.info.