"We had about 15 different stakeholders ranging from oil and gas operators to ag interest, farm bureau, local and county officials, all of which expressed deep concern about the proposed listing of the sand dune lizard," says Ben Sheppard, PBPA president.
While economics are not taken into consideration when it comes to putting a species on the Endangered Species List, U.S. Fish and Wildlife says it's important they hear these concerns. "The number one job of the administration right now and the number one concern of the whole country, Congress, the President's office, is jobs. And we work for the administration, so we certainly are not going to do anything to threaten jobs and that's never been our goal," says Charna Lefton, U.S. Fish & Wildlife spokesperson.
But the final decision will come down to science, and that was the main concern at today's meeting. Sheppard says, "Their science is erroneous and conflicts itself in many cases."
"I think there was a major concern that the quality of science, the actual hard core experimental design and quality of the science was insufficient to a decision that has that much economic impact on this region and New Mexico," says Dr. Robert Baker, TTU biological scientist.
Although Fish and Wildlife received two new scientific studies today, according to Dr. Baker, it would take years to determine whether or not drilling would impact the lizard's habitat. "It's a five year study or four year. It needs some multi-year thing that involves variables in rain and variables in environmental factors as well. That experimental design has not been done and is hard to do."
Sheppard says the two studies that were submitted today refute claims that were made in the federal register. He thinks when Fish and Wildlife review this new science, the only decision they'll have to make is to keep the lizard off the list.
Although we weren't able to attend today's meeting, we are working to get an audio link so you will be able to hear exactly what was said. When we receive that, we'll post it on http://www.permianbasin360.com.
Senator Cornyn released the following statement: