FWS lists lesser prairie chicken as threatened species

The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. While the Mar. 27 final rule fell short of the endangered status many environmental organizations sought, it also disappointed Midcontinent oil and gas producers and others involved in a five-state environmental impact mitigation effort to make any federal listing unnecessary.

The listing recognizes such efforts with an unprecedented use of a final special rule under Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act, FWS said.

It will let Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado to continue managing conservation efforts and avoid further federal regulation of oil and gas, utility line maintenance, and other activities under the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ (WAFWA) range-wide conservation plan, FWS said.

The special rule also establishes that conservation practices carried out through the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and through ongoing normal agricultural practices on existing cultivated land that are all in compliance with the ESA and not subject to further regulation, it added.

“The lesser prairie chicken is in dire straits,” FWS Director Daniel M. Ashe said. “Our determination that it warrants listing as a threatened species with a special rule acknowledges the unprecedented partnership efforts and leadership of the five range states for management of the species.

Ashe said, “Working through the WAFWA range-wide conservation plan, the states remain in the driver’s seat for managing the species—more than has ever been done before—and participating landowners and developers are not impacted with additional regulatory requirements.”

Oil, gas groups respond

Oil and gas associations in three of the states were disappointed initially with the listing. “We’re disappointed that we wound up with a threatened listing after so many enrolled in the range-wide plan,” Chad Warmington, president of the Midcontinent Oil & Gas Association of Oklahoma, told OGJ. “But it’s better than an endangered listing, although there are significant penalties.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico Oil & Gas Association Pres. Steve Henke said, “It’s yet to play out. It’s disappointing, particularly for New Mexicans who have been so proactive in attempting to manage habitat and helping to provide funding for monitoring and habitat acquisition in West Texas and New Mexico. [FWS] missed an opportunity to help the private sector take ownership of this issue and invest voluntarily in conservation measures.”

The real danger, even though it’s a threatened listing with a special rule that validates what states, oil and gas producers, and other stakeholders have been doing, is that it provides opportunities for the Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Advocates, and similar groups to mount fresh challenges, Henke told OGJ. “We haven’t been rewarded for our proactive efforts,” he said, adding, “It’s a step backward.”

The Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association told FWS in 2013 that it did not believe listing the bird under the ESA was warranted, KIOGA Pres. Edward P. Cross said. “We questioned the science used to determine endangered species determinations, the lack of prudent economic impact analyses, and the need to reform the species listing process,” he told OGJ via e-mail.

Cross said KIOGA and its members also relayed their concerns to US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and other congressional energy policymakers as well as members of the Kansas delegation. It also supports WAFWA’s range-wide plan. “We now will continue to work and hope to see that the range wide plan can serve as a comprehensive framework and strategy to speed the eventual delisting of the LPC,” he said.

Drought impacts ignored

Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association Regulatory Committee Chairman Kim Hatfield noted that while OIPA and the oil and gas industry as a whole have supported lesser prairie chicken conservation efforts, “the truth is declines in the population have very little relationship to oil and gas activity in western Oklahoma.” FWS found the bird’s population was cut in half from 2012 to 2013 because of severe drought, he said, adding that drought had similar impacts several times over the last century.

“It is unfortunate that Oklahomans will now shoulder a burdensome and expensive regulatory scheme due to a bird that has been impacted more by weather than industry activity,” Hatfield said.

Two days before FWS’s announcement, WAFWA said 32 oil and gas, power transmission, and wind energy companies committed to enroll more than 3.6 million acres in its LPC range-wide conservation plan, providing about $21 million for habitat conservation over 3 years.

Companies agree to pay modest enrollment fees, follow a list of guidelines to minimize impacts on the bird, and agree to pay for impacts they cannot avoid, the Cheyenne, Wyo.-based association explained. It said the money goes to farmers, ranchers, and landowners to protect and restore habitat for the bird.

“The range-wide plan represents more than a pathway to mitigate industry impacts,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA’s grassland coordinator. “It also serves as a way to unify all existing lesser prairie chicken programs under a common set of goals to conserve the species. Each of those programs has been successful in its own right.”

Oil and gas producers in the program include Apache Corp., COG Operating LLC, ConocoPhillips, Continental Resources Inc., Devon Energy Corp., EnerVest Operating LLC, Marathon Oil Corp., Mewbourne Oil Co., Occidental Oil & Gas Corp., Peregrine Petroleum Partners Ltd., Pioneer Natural Resources Co., QEP Resources Inc., and Samson Resources.

Congressional reactions

Republicans in the 113th Congress roundly criticized FWS’s action, while the few Democrats who commented were more conciliatory. “While better than an endangered listing, the Obama administration’s decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened is purely political,” said US Sen. James N. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s ranking minority member.

“Today’s decision, which has real-world consequences for Texas families, landowners, and businesses, is a missed opportunity to acknowledge Texans’ unprecedented conservation efforts,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said the listing would have real consequences on many sectors in communities across the state. “As conservation efforts are considered, producers deserve the flexibility to implement plans that fit their operations,” he maintained.

US House Republicans from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas also were critical. “The LPC was one of hundreds of species included in a settlement agreement between [DOI] and litigious 'environmental' organizations,” said Tim Huelskamp (Kan.). “The listing proves once again that ‘sue-and-settle’ is taking the place of sound science.”

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said communities, oil and gas producers, and farmers and ranchers deserve credit for implementing voluntary habitat conservation measures, but the efforts came too late to reverse a rapid and severe LPC population decline. “I am pleased that [FWS] has recognized the work done through these voluntary agreements, which means that the landowners and developers who are participating will not be impacted by the listing with any additional regulatory requirements,” he said.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) said he was relieved to see the federal agency’s decision supports such voluntary efforts. “[FWS] officials have assured me that even with this listing, anyone participating in a voluntary conservation agreement will be able to continue business as usual, and there is still time to sign up,” he said.

Governors’ reactions

Two of the five states’ governors also responded to FWS’s move. “This is an overreach on the part of the federal government, and I am concerned about the effect this designation will have on Kansans and the Kansas economy,” Sam Brownback (R) said. “We are looking at possible responses on this issue.”

But Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin (R) expressed optimism at the unprecedented option included in the decision that allows landowners and industry to receive protections from harming the species by enrolling in WAFWA’s Range-Wide Plan and taking steps to allow for conservation. “While I had asked [FWS] to not list the lesser prairie chicken under the ESA, due in large part to Oklahoma’s efforts to develop and implement the Range-Wide Plan, I believe we have a unique opportunity to show how a plan based in state management of this species can allow for a quick recovery,” she said.

“I appreciate the outstanding work of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to develop a new conservation model that keeps states in charge of managing species, like the [LPC], rather than the federal government taking over all management control,” Fallin continued.

She noted that with a large amount of voluntary conservation already taking place, “my administration will take all steps to continue to implement this plan and work with [FWS] to delist this species as soon as possible. I am very excited to see industry and the states continue to work together on conserving this bird with our jointly developed conservation strategies.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

MARKET WATCH: Oil prices decline as US crude inventories post first gain in 9 weeks

07/01/2015 Oil prices on July 1 surrendered much of their gains from the day before after the release of a government report showing the first rise in US crud...

FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

07/01/2015 The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar b...
White Papers

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors

register:WEBCAST


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP, http://go.sap.com/solution/industry/oil-gas.html

register:WEBCAST


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected