by Jen Kastner
WARD COUNTY- The big players in oil and gas congregated in Ward County to discuss key issues they're facing right now, which they believe will ultimately threaten the economy.
The first problem on their list is hydraulic fracturing.
"Many people are concerned about potential damage to fresh water but most [if not] all scientists can tell you that there's no evidence with the proper techniques that there's ever been any damage to the fresh water," Ben Sheppard with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, said.
They say the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to crack down on their ability to continue fracking, claiming the technique is dangerous and contaminates the groundwater. Oil and gas experts couldn't disagree more.
Texas Oil and Gas Representative Luke Legate says, "Fracking is a proven-safe technology that is delivering [and] creating the boom. I was just speaking with an older gentleman who said he didn't ever think drilling would return to this area. Hydraulic fracturing is delivering that."
Next up on their agenda was the Dunes Sagebrush lizard, a tiny reptile that has the industry up in arms. The lizard, which lives in our area, could be added to the national endangered species list by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. If that happens, it could restrict the way drilling is done around the Basin. Industry leaders say U.S. Fish and Wildlife can't back up its proposal to put the lizard on the list.
Sheppard says, "It could affect all or parts of about 13 counties in West Texas and about 5 in New Mexico. From our point of view, there is absolutely no supported science to support the listings, so we're very strongly opposed."
They're waiting for U.S. Fish and Wildlife to make their decision, which is set to come out December 14th. Oil and gas experts say they've done their homework. Now they say they're hoping U.S. Fish and Wildlife does the same.
"We've gone through and scientifically reviewed the proposal and identified a number of flaws in their logic and we pointed those out to them and we're hopeful they'll consider those when making a decision," Sheppard said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife tells NewsWest 9 that they're looking at all the materials necessary to make a decision and should have one by the December deadline. They can't comment anymore at this time because they say the public comment period is over.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued NewsWest 9 this statement: "Natural gas plays a key role in our nation's clean energy future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing that vital resource. While hydraulic fracturing has been around for decades, recent technology has led to an increase in its use and the ability to conduct fracturing at deeper levels underground. EPA scientists, at the direction of Congress, are conducting a major study on the practice to better understand any potential impacts it may have on drinking water resources. EPA has had the most transparent process in developing this study including public meetings throughout the country to get public and industry input. Our methods are reviewed by independent scientists as well."
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