A New Threat From Environmentalists

The latest threat from environmentalists who would seem to want to drive us back into the stone age:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will formally consider listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken—whose habitat includes some of the nation’s major energy fields—as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This clearly is another desperate ploy by the Obama administration to further its campaign against oil and gas drilling. Such egregious overreach has been a specialty of the Environmental Protection Agency in the past. The administration has now found another agency to do its bidding.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken is a ground-nesting bird native to portions of Texas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In Texas, it is found primarily in the Texas Panhandle and the Permian Basin. Listing the bird as threatened or endangered would make drilling all but impossible in these economically thriving regions. The Permian Basin alone produces more than one million barrels of oil a day, accounting for almost 70% of Texas’ total production and 20% of the nation’s oil production. It also supports thousands of jobs and provides millions of dollars in state revenue.

As the article indicates, if the Department of Fish and Wildlife were to label the the Lesser Prairie Chicken as an endangered species, if could effectively reverse the new advances made in oil production in recent years. This would be devastating to the regions economy.

However, the worst part is that the federal government helps fund the environmental groups who bring forth these lawsuits:

Yet another issue of concern is the funding behind these efforts to list certain animals as endangered. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson testified to Congress in June that taxpayer money is being spent in litigation over these listings. For instance, the petition to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was originally filed by a radical environmental group, the Wild Earth Guardians. Interestingly, this group collected $680,492 in tax money (as grants and the like) from Fish and Wildlife between 2007 and 2011. During that time the group sued the federal agency 76 times over alleged environmental violations.

The Wild Earth Guardians are also behind the petition to list the Spot-Tailed Earless Lizard under the Endangered Species Act. Not coincidentally, the range of this particular lizard includes portions of the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, which is emerging as one of the top oil- and gas-producing regions in the country. Production in the nine-field formation is steadily increasing, reporting 310,370 barrels of oil a day in July of this year, compared with 120,532 barrels a day in July 2011.

By filing an outlandish number of lawsuits, groups like the Wild Earth Guardians are trying to overwhelm Fish and Wildlife resources and force settlements that the groups can dictate, instead of letting the courts decide.

One might think it would be poor judgement to continue handing out grants to a group who made a habit out of suing the same (or similar) agencies who were providing the grants, but this is the government we’re talking about.

These groups also engage in what has been termed “sue and settle” where they continually sue governmental agencies in order to get these agencies to settle with the environmental groups in order to secure an outcome the environmental groups (and often times the agency as well) desire. A further explanation here:

Environmental and consumer advocacy groups have found a new way to use the federal regulatory process to force overly burdensome regulations onto business.

It works like this: Environmental and consumer advocacy groups file a lawsuit claiming that the federal government has failed to meet a deadline or has not satisfied some regulatory requirement. The agency can then either choose to defend itself against the lawsuit or settle it. Often times, it settles by putting in place a “court-ordered” regulation desired by the advocacy group, thus circumventing the proper rulemaking channels and basic transparency and accountability standards. This tactic is called “sue and settle,” a name coined by Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN).

Those most often targeted by this type of litigation are the Environmental Protection Agency; the departments of the Interior, Transportation, Agriculture, and Defense: the Fish & Wildlife Service; and the Army Corps of Engineers. Citizen suit provisions in most major environmental statutes make EPA, Interior, and others that administer environmental laws easy targets.

Through sue and settle, agencies have instituted dozens of large, burdensome rules in recent years, including such controversial regulations as new standards for greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities and refineries; revisions to the definition of solid waste; and Clean Air Act regulations on oil and gas drilling operations.

Given the outrage that would surface if the Fish and Wildlife Dept. managed to hamstring state oil drilling, it seems somewhat unlikely that they would take major action in this case. But they certainly have the power, which is disconcerting in and of itself. A little push (or lawsuit) from environmental groups, and you never know..



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