"University Lands was set aside by the Constitution of 1876 and then there was a statutory set aside in 1873 for a total of 2.1 million acres," says Jim Benson, University Lands Interim Director. That land is now leased to oil companies to drill, and the money goes to the Permanent University Fund benefiting the University of Texas system and Texas A&M.
"We've estimated, as the habitat is described currently, it would prevent 75,000 acres from being developed for oil and gas. We calculated that to be 1,000 drilling locations and calculated that to be 7 million barrels of oil per year," says Benson.
And the problem could reach far beyond Texas' borders. Since the Permian Basin contains some of the highest oil producing counties in the U.S., should certain areas be shut down, we could become more dependent on foreign oil. "Anytime we restrict production, that makes us more dependent on oil from somewhere else...i.e. international supplies," says Rep. Mike Conaway, R-District 11.
The congressman says that this could impact our national security. "The less domestic production means you move that risk factor from less risky to more risky by restricting domestic production. "
And in the end, gasoline prices would also begin inching up as the price of crude begins to rise. "This oil (in the Permian Basin), if it's not going into the supply side will have a dramatic, immediate effect on crude oil because it's a commodity. If there's more of it, the price goes down. If there's less of it, the price goes up," says Congressman Conaway.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson explains the problem. "What's happened is there's certain entities such as WildEarth Guardians and Centers for Biological Diversity that have figured out a way to force the U.S. Fish & Wildlife into designating species as endangered or threatened without regard to science. By statute, when you petition to put a species on the list, Fish & Wildlife has to do certain things by a certain time, so they have resources to do that. When you cover them up with 400 a year instead of 20 a year, by definition, they can't do the homework. They can't do the science," says Patterson.
But according to Fish and Wildlife, we may not have anything to worry about at all. They say they're working with stake holders, the oil and gas industry, private landowners and the ag community to make the process as seamless as possible.
"If everything works out the way we're planning for it to workout, we have no reason to believe that it will not work out that way. There will be no interruptions in operations in the Permian Basin or in drilling in habitat or where lizards occur because we will have the mechanisms in place to deal with that and manage any kind of damage that may happen because of it. So, every is working together to create a seamless transition from pre-listing to post-listing with no interruption to operation," says Allison Arnold, U.S. Fish & Wildlife.
If you have any questions, you can call U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's field office in San Antonio 512-203-5145.