Sen. Cruz Issues Statement in Response To a Fish and Wildlife Service Notice Allowing Permian Basin Oil and Gas Companies to Operate on Land Inhabited By the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

I issued the following statement in response to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) publishing a Notice of Availability for an Enhancement of Survival Permit Application and drafting an Environmental Assessment for the dunes sagebrush lizard (DSL), a species found only in the Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The notice establishes a permitting process that would allow oil and gas companies in the Permian Basin to continue operations without fear of legal repercussions for operating on land that is inhabited by the species: 

I commend the Fish and Wildlife Service for taking steps to ensure the conservation decisions to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard remain at the state and local level. Listing the lizard under the Endangered Species Act would be devastating for private property owners across West Texas, the Texas economy, and the energy security of the nation while also failing to achieve the desired outcome of both protecting and recovering  wildlife. In fact, since the ESA was passed in 1973, only three percent of species have actually recovered to the point where they are no longer endangered or threatened. 

State and local governments, landowners, and interested stakeholders who are most familiar with the specific needs of their own communities should take a leading role in the important task of protecting the environment rather than the federal government imposing a one-size-fits-all approach. This proposal does just that – providing  greater certainty to landowners in Texas and helping protect private property rights, while balancing the voluntary conservation efforts necessary to preserve the species.

BACKGROUND 

 

  • The growth of fracking, which uses a particular kind of sand to produce oil and gas, in the Permian Basin and statewide, has led to a significant increase in frac-sand mining in Texas. The dunes sagebrush lizard (DSL) is not a federally-protected species under the ESA. However, the DSL is listed as Endangered by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and has been a candidate species for listing under ESA by the US Fish and Wildlife Service since 2001. Federal land-use regulation via the ESA threatens current and new energy development on the Permian Basin.
  • From 2012 up until now, environmental interests and oil and gas interests have been balanced by the Texas Conservation Plan (TCP).  This was largely in response to the 2002 Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petition for protection of the lizard under the ESA and a FWS proposal to list the species in 2010.
  • In August 2018, Texas Comptroller, Glenn Hegar proposed a new conservation plan which would increase regulation for protection of the DSL. The CBD’s petition for federal listing under the ESA triggered a 12-month review to determine listing of DSL species.
  • The TCP didn’t include frac sand which meant the old plan needed a major amendment. FWS also indicated to the Comptroller’s office that Texas is currently out of compliance. The Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances (CCAA) incorporates frac sand operations and the impact from those operations into the plan.
  • This new CCAA attempts to address concerns from both the Comptroller and FWS, as well as concerns from West Texas companies. The CCAA will ensure that, if FWS decides to list the DSL, property owners are protected from future federal land-use restrictions.
 

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