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Local Industry Leaders React To Lizard Decision

After the decision on the dunes sagebrush lizard not being added to the endangered species list, local industry leaders are breathing a sigh of relief. Alanna Quillen reports.
PERMIAN BASIN -- For the past year and a half, a little lizard has been in the middle of a big controversy.

It's taken rallies and meetings both for and against the dunes sagebrush lizard to reach the decision of not adding it to the endangered species list.

David Arrington, president of Arrington Oil and Gas, Inc., said it took both environmentalists and the oil and gas industry to find an answer.

"What I like to say is the oil and gas industry and the lizard can now live in harmony," he said.

What worried Arrington and others was the billions of dollars a year he said would have been lost.

"It was going to become another cumbersome, governmental regulation hoop that we were gonna have to jump," he said. "That was actually gonna cost the oil industry, and the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico."

Mike Rieken, Chevron's Oil Area Manager, says the decision was a good collaboration of everyone involved, and that it's a good model for future potential listings.

"I think most people would also agree that this was a good compromise, a good successful outcome that satisfied all parties," he said.

But not everyone is satisfied. New Mexico-based environmental group WildEarth Guardians issued this press release, expressing its disappointment in the lizard decision.

Group leaders say, "There is no species more deserving of listing than the lizard."

The group says it hopes the government wasn't pressured by the oil and gas industry, who have declared a "jihad against a 3-inch lizard."

Chevron helped lead the effort in setting up the conservation areas in Texas and New Mexico.

"It helps protect the lizard and it helps industry move forward," Rieken said. "I mean, frankly, it allows us to grow domestic oil production and do so while protecting the lizard."

A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman also issued the following statement:

"ConocoPhillips welcomes this decision by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We are committed to protecting the environment that we share, which is why we participate in programs that encourage innovation and conservation like the voluntary conservation agreements now in place in New Mexico and Texas to protect the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard.

At ConocoPhillips, we view sustainable development as a vital element in earning the "license to operate" granted to us by the many stakeholders we serve.  We recognize that to ensure true sustainability, we also must return value to shareholders, while supplying the energy needed to drive the global economy.  Responsible development of U.S. oil and gas resources creates jobs, promotes economic growth and improves U.S. energy security
."

Arrington says the good thing about the decision taking this long is that it was fully investigated and looked over.

"The truth has been spoken, and we're glad that we can move on now, and work on the business at hand."

Rieken added that this is definitely not a case closed.The federal government still has the ability to list the lizard as an endangered species in the future.
   
There are also still 800 more species that are threatened in this habitat area.
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