Movies from the 1950s depicted a prehistoric monster tromping through Japan destroying cities. Today, West Texas oilmen face a no less fearful foe in the sand dune lizard.
Posted 01 July 2011, by Joan R. Neubauer, Huliq (Hareyan Publishing LLC), huliq.com
Unlike Godzilla, the sand dune lizard, a small reptile of only a few inches long, threatens the Texas oil industry through the Fish and Wildlife Service. If that federal agency gets its way, it will place the species on the endangered species list. That could put hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil suddenly off limits to exploitation. All of that has the potential to bring the industry in West Texas and parts of New Mexico to a dead stop.
Thousands of Texans and New Mexicans could lose their jobs because the regulations could curtail any industrial development on the land or so stifle activity as to not make it worthwhile. People in the oil and gas industry as well as the cattle industry are watching this very closely.
“If the lizard is put on the endangered species list, then [rigs] would [be] shutdown,” Leslyn Wallace, a land manager at RSP Permian, told ABC News.
“As far as I am concerned, it is Godzilla,” Texas land commissioner Jerry Paterson told ABC News.” [It's] the biggest threat facing the oil business in memory,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. They believe the small tan-colored, insectivorous lizard could cost the oil industry and surrounding communities thousands of jobs.
“The listing of the lizard has several bad outcomes, but jobs is the worst outcome. We stand to lose agriculture production, all of the oil and gas jobs; it might shut down the nuclear enrichment facility,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who cites New Mexico’s joblessness at 9 percent.
“It’s time for our government to see how we can be managing both [nature and industry],” said Pearce. “We need to be protecting the species, that’s never the question, but we can protect the species and create jobs simultaneously.”
Lizard sightings are rare. Most area residents have never seen one. But the Fish and Wildlife Service has little doubt the sand lizard is losing its habitat to oil rigs. “They are in much lower numbers in areas that are fragmented by oil and gas development,” Dan Leavitt, a herpetologist at Texas A&M University.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t think the economic impact of placing the lizard on the endangered species list will have the dramatic effect the oil industry claims. They also say they must base their decision only on what they consider best for the lizard and not its economic impact.
“The law says we need to look at the science,” Michelle Shaughnessy, assistant regional director at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
In recent years, the EPA has managed to worm its way into our lives in various ways, from how much water our toilets use to which light bulbs we can purchase. Now I can’t help but think other agencies in the government have thought to take on the imperial veneer and issue edicts of their own. This time, the Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to flex its muscles to see who will either comply or fight, and they have set their sights on Texas and New Mexico.
Such an action could put thousands of Texans and New Mexicans out of work because the regulations could curtail any industrial development on the land or so stifle activity as to not make it worthwhile. People in the oil and gas industry as well as the cattle industry are watching this very closely.
The Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management, a nonprofit organization in Carlsbad, NM deals with impacts from hazardous material on the environment. They have studied the issue closely and says it has a plan to create a lizard-safe haven, while allowing the oil and gas industry to continue operating.
“All indicators are that the plan is actually working. We are getting lands, and conservation measures on lands, for both the lesser chicken and the sand dune lizard,” Douglass Lynn, director of the center said.
The Fish and Wildlife Services has not announced when they’ll make their final decision.