Endangered Species Act and the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard
by State Senator Kel Seliger
Texas is the largest daily producer of oil and natural gas in the nation and one of the top ten producers in the world. Currently, there are 150,199 oil wells and 94,800 gas wells actively producing in the state, supplying 31.2 percent and 35.8 percent, respectively, of the U.S. total. So, when the federal government, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, proposed to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (DSL) on the Endangered Species List without a defensible scientific base, you can imagine my surprise and bewilderment. The DSL is found in Winkler, Andrews, Gaines, Yoakum, Cochran, Ward, and Crane counties, coincidentally home to the state and country's dominant oil producing basin, the Permian Basin. With the U.S. economy in shreds and the lack of scientific evidence, one can't help but wonder if this most recent federal overreach is just a continuation of the Obama Administration's attack on Texas and her abundant oil resources.
Which is why I am calling for the DSL to be granted an exemption from the Endangered Species Act (Act).
The Act says that a determination is to be made on the best scientific and commercial data available, but what if only 10 percent of that data specifically relates to Texas? And more interestingly, some reports used to base this determination date back as far as 1972. I am appalled that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service deems this as scientifically acceptable. I am in favor of protecting wildlife against human consumption and action, but this is clearly a violent and exorbitant use of the Act. It's also interesting to note that Congress believes that economic impact should be considered while designating the critical habitat for the endangered species once it is listed, but no such consideration is given during the listing process.
Clearly, the Act needs to be overhauled and reworked to adapt to the 21st century. The original legislation passed Congress in 1973, and while the most recent amendment in 2004 exempted the Department of Defense (DOD), there has not been a concerted effort to review the Act in over 20 years. I understand the need to exempt the DOD on the basis of national security reasons and would call for the same exemption to apply in the case of the DSL in West Texas. Fifty-seven percent of all oil consumed in the U.S. is imported, therefore allowing foreign countries to manipulate and hold hostage the American marketplace. This country's energy independence requires us to produce oil and gas from within our own borders and with unsupported listings on the Endangered Species List and the regulations that accompany a listing, companies simply cannot, and will not continue to do business here.
Comptroller Susan Combs, the oil and gas industry, and stakeholders of the Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species are to be commended for their innovative work on the Texas Conservation Plan for the DSL. However, once the imminent listing of the DSL occurs, I urge the Texas Congressional delegation to pursue an exemption of the Act.