The PJ Tatler

How the Obama administration may use a three-inch lizard to make you pay even more for gas

Another day, another attack on the American economy from our own administration. This time, it’s coming from US Fish & Wildlife, which may issue a ruling that could wreck the West Texas oil industry.

Called the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, it is being considered for inclusion on the federal Endangered Species listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A public rally to oppose this move is being sponsored by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association on Tuesday, April 26 at Midland Center beginning at 5 p.m. Congressman Mike Conaway will speak, as will Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson; other public officials have been invited.

“We are very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife Service listing,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the PBPA, noting the service also has proposed listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken next year. “The wolf at the door is the lizard; we’re concerned listing it would shut down drilling activity for a minimum of two years and as many as five years while the service determines what habitat is needed for the lizard. That means no drilling, no seismic surveys, no roads built, no electric lines.”

The move would impact activity in Andrews, Crane, Gaines, Ward and Winkler counties in Texas and Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt counties in New Mexico.

Not only would the move impact oil and gas operations but agriculture, Shepperd noted, shutting down agricultural activities like grazing and farming — “anything that disturbs the habitat.” While the industry is perfectly willing to undertake conservation measures to protect the lizard’s habitat, he said, naming it an endangered species “would shut down activity and be devastating not only to Permian Basin economies but to the national economy. We are the one bright spot month after month; in our economic turnaround, the main driver is the oil and gas industry.”

The concern is, he said, that the Fish and Wildlife Service lacks enough data to conclude that the tiny lizard is endangered and is basing its action on flawed methodology. “They didn’t spend enough time looking for them or the right technique to find them,” he said.

There is no shortage of lizards in West Texas, but there is a shortage of jobs and there is a shortage of oil at the moment, and food prices are going up too. The Obama folks evidently care more about a lizard, which in all likelihood isn’t endangered at all, than about jobs and the economy. I have to say, Texans are getting more than fed up with all the hits we’re taking from this bunch in Washington.

It’s good to see Land Commissioner Patterson is taking this issue on. He’s a take no prisoners sort. But I agree with Ed — Congress will have to raise this issue too. Rep. Conaway is great but he’ll need some help from Rep. Quico Canseco, Lamar Smith and some of the others in the Texas delegation. This is an opportunity for Democrat Rep. Gene Green to step up too.