Energy industry bugged by rules delay

The Muddy Boggy Conservation Bank in central Oklahoma recently became the state's first conservation bank. Pipeline and construction companies can buy conservation credits from the bank and reduce their liability with the American Burying Beetle.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: January 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm •  Published: January 23, 2014

A common challenge for the oil and natural gas and construction industries is digging at industry players once again.

The American Burying Beetle, classified as an endangered species since 1989, has slowed pipeline construction and inflated project7 costs throughout the eastern third of the state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service more than a year ago suspended its established practice of requiring companies to bait and trap beetles before moving the insects away.

New rules still awaiting implementation are expected to require companies to obtain an “incidental take” permit for the beetle by purchasing conservation credits. But the rules have been delayed more than a year. The permit would remove the liability from killing or harming the beetles.

Credits fund efforts

In the meantime, the Muddy Boggy Conservation Bank last month received approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service as the country's first American Burying Beetle conservation bank.

The habitat, operated by Houston-based Mitigation Solutions USA, lies on 2,700 acres of former Sam Noble Foundation land near the boarder of Coal, Hughes and Pontotoc counties.

As part of the proposed rules, oil companies would buy conservation credits from Mitigation Solutions, funding the effort to keep the conservation area safe for the beetle and free from predators such as wild hogs and fire ants.

“We're in the business of creating wetland streams and conservation banks to keep business moving forward,” Mitigation Solutions President Terry McKenzie said. “We saw the policy being changed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some of our clients came to us and asked us to help out.”

For now, Muddy Boggy is open without a way for companies to buy credits to support conservation.

“We have some lead time built into our business plan because we've worked with government agencies like the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) and the Fish and Wildlife Service before and know these timelines can slip,” McKenzie said.

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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