RRC Commissioners Request Endangered Species Listing Challenge

July 01, 2024

AUSTIN – Despite numerous concerns relayed by Texas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) as an endangered species.

The listing’s impact on the most vital oil producing region in the nation – the Permian Basin – could be devastating, and RRC commissioners are taking steps to prevent that.

At their recent open meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to request the Texas Attorney General’s office challenge the ruling.

The DSL’s habitat is in the Permian Basin, which has more than 7,000 producing oil and gas fields in Texas. The endangered species listing will force operators to limit activities and could prohibit future development of energy operations.  

In comments submitted last year, the RRC pointed out the Service’s speculative conclusions that the DSL is at risk of extinction were based on outdated scientific studies that do not reflect modern oil and gas production technology. In addition, the RRC expressed concern the Service did not base its determination utilizing actual populations of the DSL, but rather relied on habitat modeling.

Also of great importance is the disregard of a major DSL conservation measure taken in Texas through a public-private partnership. Stakeholders including state agencies, oil and gas operators and landowners launched the Texas Conservation Plan in West Texas which significantly protects the lizards by establishing methods that prevent incidental destruction of DSL habitat during oil and gas operations.

“The Biden administration doubled down on their attack of the oil and gas industry with their latest Endangered Species Act action,” said RRC Chairman Christi Craddick. “By ignoring the existing conservation plans made by state and industry leaders to protect potential Dunes Sagebrush Lizard habitat, the administration makes it clear that this is nothing more than a political game. I am proud to push back against these unscientific and irresponsible regulations and appreciate the Office of Attorney General for supporting our efforts.”

“This doesn’t have a thing to do with ‘saving lizards’; it’s about shutting down U.S. oil and gas production to win political brownie points, which will only increase inflation and jeopardize billions of lives globally,” said RRC Commissioner Wayne Christian. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a lizard, a chicken, a whale, or a unicorn, radical environmentalists won’t be satisfied until we all get out energy from firewood and are living in a cave again. To them, this is about ending fossil fuels to ‘better humanity’; which is ironic given fossil fuels allow mankind to flourish by powering 80% of the globe’s energy, manufacturing 96% of consumer products, and helping feed more than half the planet. Right now, the world needs more energy and more Texas oil and gas, and all this does is drive up prices and make it harder on consumers.”

“Texas will certainly fight this most recent weaponization, which aims to shut down half the nation’s crude oil production and one-third of its natural gas production,” continued Christian. “Texans can rest assured that the RRC and other state agencies won’t lift a finger to help with this nonsense, because the Texas Energy Independence Act prohibits state agencies from facilitating any effort that would undermine Texas oil and gas production.”

“President Biden and his administration care more about reptiles and junglefowl than they do about the energy needs of our nation,” said Commissioner Jim Wright. “If they cared half as much about single mothers struggling with rising inflation and higher energy bills as they care about this lizard, a lawsuit wouldn’t be necessary.”

The referral to the Attorney General can be found here https://www.rrc.texas.gov/media/2fvjmku1/rrc-dsl-oag-referral.pdf

About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit https://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.