Texas is pushing back against the Biden administration after they say the government’s push to classify a lizard as an endangered species could have a devastating impact on the state’s oil and gas industry.
In a recent letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas General Land Office Commissioner Dawn Buckingham wrote that the classification of the dunes sagebrush lizard (DSL) as an endangered species “could have a crippling impact on the oil and gas industry.”
“Although the proposed habitat of the DSL is not well or clearly defined, it appears to be located primarily in the Permian Basin of far West Texas, which is the beating heart of Texas’ – and the country’s – oil and gas industry and, therefore, one of the primary sources of revenue for education in Texas, by way of the School Fund and the PUF,” the letter states.
The letter states that “listing the DSL will surely bring with it a designation of critical habitat as well as rules strictly limiting, or even prohibiting, surface activities that are necessary for oil and gas exploration and production.”
Buckingham’s office told Fox News Digital that the Biden administration has provided no evidence of changes to the drilling in the area that would justify updating a 2012 finding that the two-inch lizard does not meet the threshold of an endangered species.
“As Texas’ land commissioner, I steward over 13 million acres of rich Texas lands on behalf of the taxpayer,” Buckingham told Fox News Digital. “Many of these state lands are rich in natural resources and produce billions of dollars in benefits for Texans. The reckless actions by Biden and his USFWS directly threaten the quality of every Texas public school child’s education. If Biden adopts this proposal, I will do everything in my power to protect Texas energy and Texas education.”
Buckingham’s office says the Permanent School Fund Land in Texas helps fund public education in the state and sent $2.1 billion in royalties toward that effort last year alone.
“This could cripple what is now a very healthy job environment,” Doug Robison, president of ExL Petroleum in Midland, Texas, said in 2011 when environmental groups began pushing for the lizard to be federally protected.
In the letter, Buckingham also said that the population of the DSL has been increasing in the area over the last few years due in part to conservation efforts by the state that the federal government is being accused of ignoring.
“With an increasing and thriving population that can even persist in ‘highly degraded areas’, the DSL is not in need of the federal protections offered by the Rule; particularly when doing so risks crippling Texas’ oil and gas industry,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, USFWS has not yet considered those impacts (as it is required to do): “Careful assessments of the economic and environmental impacts that may occur due to a critical habitat designation are not yet complete.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will respond to private correspondence privately,” the Department of the Interior told Fox News Digital.
The Biden administration is to review comments from all parties before deciding on moving forward with the rule within the extended deadline of Oct. 2, 2023.