Thursday, March 03, 2016

Interior, drillers win high-stakes lizard lawsuit

The Obama administration and the oil industry scored a big win in court today as federal judges decided a case surrounding lizards that dwell in prime drilling territory. A unanimous panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against conservation groups, who challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service's 2012 move to withdraw its prior decision to list the dunes sagebrush lizard -- whose habitat is in New Mexico and Texas -- as endangered. The D.C. Circuit upheld a lower court decision that also sided with the Obama administration. The legal battle over the lizard has been closely watched by the energy industry. State officials and oil interests have feared that an endangered species listing for the tiny species would hamper drilling in the Permian Basin -- historically the nation's largest oil patch (EnergyWire, Jan. 10, 2014). Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity contended that FWS's withdrawal of the lizard listing was illegal because voluntary conservation agreements in Texas and New Mexico are "not regulatory mechanisms and are too speculative to ensure the conservation of the species."...more

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