Texas Railroad Commission requests challenge to endangered species listing

Texas Railroad Commission requests challenge to endangered species listing

Texas Railroad Commission requests challenge to endangered species listing

AUSTIN, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Following the recent listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Railroad Commission is challenging the listing due to its alleged impact on oil and gas production in the Permian Basin region.

According to RRC officials, during their last open meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to ask the Texas Attorney General’s office to challenge the decision. Officials noted that the DSL’s habitat is in the Permian Basin, with more than 7,000 producing oil and gas fields.

The dunes sagebrush lizard is found in New Mexico and western Texas, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the lizard has suffered population declines due to habitat loss associated with oil and gas development, sand mining, and climate change. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials stated in the report on the listing that the lizard is only found on 4% of the lands that make up the 86,000 square mile Permian Basin. The listing was originally requested by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2002, however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made them a “candidate” for listing which did not allow the lizard population to receive full protection.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Service ultimately proposed listing the dunes as an endangered species in late 2010, but the Service canceled the proposed listing and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in 2013. Center officials noted that the Service later determined the species warranted protection 10 years after the proposed delisting.

However, the recent inclusion of the service will force operators to limit their activities and could prohibit the future development of energy operations, according to the RRC.

“This isn’t about ‘saving lizards’; it’s about shutting down U.S. oil and gas production to score political points, which will only increase inflation and endanger billions of lives around the world,” said RRC Commissioner Wayne Christian. “Whether it’s a lizard, a chicken, a whale, or a unicorn, radical environmentalists won’t be satisfied until we’re all getting energy from wood and living in a cave again. For them, it’s about ending fossil fuels to ‘improve humanity,’ which is ironic given that fossil fuels allow humanity to thrive by generating 80% of the planet’s energy, making 96% of consumer products, and helping to feed more than half the planet. Right now, the world needs more energy and more Texas oil and gas, and all this does is drive up prices and make things harder for consumers.”

RRC officials noted in the report that “the Service’s speculative conclusions that DSL is at risk of extinction were based on outdated scientific studies that do not reflect modern oil and gas production technology,” and “RRC expressed concern that the Service did not base its determination using actual DSL populations, but instead relied on habitat models.”

“The Biden administration has doubled down on its attacks on the oil and gas industry with its latest action under the Endangered Species Act,” said Christi Craddick, president of RRC. “By ignoring existing conservation plans developed by state and industry leaders to protect potential habitat for the dunes sagebrush lizard, the administration is making it clear that this is nothing more than a political game. I am proud to oppose these unscientific and irresponsible regulations and thank the Attorney General’s Office for supporting our efforts.”

According to RRC officials, the listing allegedly ignored important DSL conservation measures taken by stakeholders, including state agencies, oil and gas operators, and landowners who launched the Texas Conservation Plan in West Texas that protects the lizards by establishing methods that prevent incidental destruction of DSL habitat during oil and gas operations.

“Texas will certainly fight back against this latest militarization, which aims to shut down half of the country’s crude oil production and one-third of its natural gas production,” Christian continued. “Texans can rest assured that the RRC and other state agencies will not lift a finger to help with this nonsense, because the Texas Energy Independence Act prohibits state agencies from facilitating any effort that would undermine Texas oil and gas production.”

The referral to the Attorney General can be found on the RRC website.

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