WARNING: NO LONGER CUTE
Watch out for me.
Stewart Black

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In theory, the committee is meant to ensure the proper, ethical functioning of the body. In practice under Issa, it’s a little more free-ranging. (We’ve written about Issa before.)

Today, Issa’s committee is tackling an issue that strikes close to the heart of governmental malfeasance with a hearing entitled “America’s Energy Future Part I: A Review of Unnecessary and Burdensome Regulations.” I mean, it’s basically the next Watergate.

Here’s Issa’s argument for the hearing’s necessity.

In the midst of the economic morass, the oil and gas industry has gained distinction for the many new jobs it has created and the affordable energy it has provided the rest of the nation. I am convinced that increased domestic energy production is one of the keys to economic recovery. In fact, energy is the lifeblood of a strong economy. …

The cumulative effect of unnecessary federal regulations threatens to derail the American Energy Renaissance that the citizens of this state have helped to spark.

So in other words, the oil industry is booming, but regulation is killing it. Sure, got it.

One of Issa’s guests at today’s hearing is Brian Woodard, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. In his prepared testimony [PDF], Woodard notes the strength of Oklahoma’s oil industry: the 12,000 new jobs since 2009, and that it contributes one out of every three dollars to the state’s economy.

So what threatens to derail this oil-fueled juggernaut? The Endangered Species Act (ESA). Woodard:

Like so many laws in America, the ESA is based on noble intentions. However, in its current form, it is being exploited by activist groups that self-generate income while draining dollars away from resource recovery efforts. …

Of particular concern to Oklahoma oil and gas operators is a proposed listing and critical habitat designation for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) that is expected to be published in September, 2012. The LPC’s habitat extends across five states, including: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Recent surveys have identified a declining population trend across the southern extent of the LPC’s habitat while similar efforts have identified an increasing population trend throughout Kansas, a state for which a hunting season remains intact for the species.

As previously mentioned, Oklahoma has been blessed with rich energy resources like the Cleveland, Tonkawa, Granite Wash and Mississippi Lime, four of this nation’s leading tight oil and gas plays; however, the listing of the LPC threatens to jeopardize the development and production of this economic boon as the LPC’s habitat range directly overlies the core acreage of these plays.

Mr. Chairman, if we have to worry about not killing chickens, Oklahoma’s — nay, the nation’s — economy is at risk!

The ultimate irony in an oil producer attacking the Endangered Species Act, of course, is that oil is comprised entirely of extinct critters – not dinosaurs, mind you, but other tiny microorganisms that died so that your Toyota might live.

Well, actually, the ultimate irony might be that, even with the ESA, Lesser Prairie-Chickens (a better name wouldn’t hurt?) and thousands of other species are at risk. The climate change that results even from the most animal-friendly extraction process could move between 15 and 37 percent of all species into habitats that can’t sustain them.

Go ahead and drill, Mr. Woodard. Damn the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. We’re all fricasseed anyway.