In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the dunes sagebrush lizard — which lives only in New Mexico and West Texas and “faces immediate and significant threats due to oil and gas activities, and herbicide treatments” — to the Endangered Species List.
Fox has predictably seized on the issue to baselessly claim that protecting the lizard “could cost you a bundle at the gas station,” in the words of Stuart Varney, guest-hosting Your World with Neil Cavuto. Varney interviewed Ben Shepperd of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and went so far as to suggest that efforts to protect the lizard are motivated by a desire to hurt the oil industry:
VARNEY: Why is this happening now? I mean, is there – do the environmentalists just want to protect any and all species, none of them can ever be moved or disturbed in any way, shape or form? Or are they going directly at the oil industry?
SHEPPERD: Well, I think a little of both, Stuart. The environmental groups have sued to list over a thousand species in the last four years and there’s no scientific basis for it. And some folks have said that this is a direct attack against the oil and gas industry, which tends to support conservative candidates and also as a way to drive up oil and gas prices to move us hopefully to alternative fuels.
David Asman joined in pushing the conspiratorial claim while discussing the lizard on his Fox Business Show America’s Nightly Scoreboard, suggesting that the protecting the species could be part of “a ploy to hurt Texas oil production.”
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley added:
CROWLEY: On the little lizard, I am an animal lover. The lizard is adorable.
ASMAN: You’re with Alan on this?
CROWLEY: However, this administration has been conducting a war against the oil industry from the very beginning –
ASMAN: Is this part of that?
CROWLEY: — with environmental regulations, through the drilling moratorium, and that is the primary reason why we’ve got gas over $4 a gallon.
Last night, Andrew Napolitano railed against the proposed protection of the lizard on his Fox Business show, including it in what he deemed an “all-out vendetta against affordable oil.”
While Varney, Asman, Napolitano, and Glenn Beck have all suggested that listing the dunes sagebrush lizard would require oil production in West Texas to shut down, Fish And Wildlife Service officials dispute this claim. Michelle Shaughnessy, the assistant regional director for ecological services in FWS’s Southwest district, told the Albuquerque Journal (accessed via Nexis) that these claims are “absolutely not true.” Likewise, FWS biologist Debra Hill explained that listing the lizard “doesn’t mean we stop everything. It means we use the tools available” to allow drilling activity to continue.
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