The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday detailed a temporary plan to allow oil and natural gas activity to continue near endangered insects in eastern Oklahoma.
The two-year, interim plan would provide a uniform way for oil and natural gas companies to receive incidental take permits for the American burying beetle, allowing them to continue operating in the beetle’s habitat, which includes 45 counties in central and eastern Oklahoma.
Negotiations continue on a more comprehensive, 30-year general conservation plan.
“It’s going to be good for everyone involved to try to move faster and make sure the folks doing those sorts of activities can move forward without a risk of violating the Endangered Species Act,” said Michelle Shaughnessy, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s assistant regional director for ecological services.
“This plan allows them to move forward without that risk and provides some great conservation for the species at the same time. It’s a great win-win.”
Classified as an endangered species since 1989, the American burying beetle has slowed pipeline construction and inflated project costs throughout the eastern half of the state.
The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 suspended its established practice of requiring companies to bait and trap beetles before operating in the area. As a result, the industry has had no universal process to receive a permit to operate in the area.
Brian Woodard, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said he is hopeful the proposed rules will remove the uncertainty.
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