Expansion of rice whale’s critical habitat in Gulf of Mexico to negatively impact oil, gas operations, Texas regulator warns

October 13, 2023

AUSTIN- The Railroad Commission of Texas has submitted comments in response to the National Marine Fisheries Service (Service) proposal to designate a huge swath of waters in the Gulf of Mexico - approximately 28,270 square miles - as expanded critical habitat for the Rice’s whale without sufficient data. The zealous proposal may lead to major limitations when transporting oil and gas products, which in turn would have an alarming and negative effect on the economy of Texas.

The Gulf Coast is vital to Texas being the leading state for energy exports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), natural gas liquids (NGLs), crude oil, as well as petroleum and coal product exports. A study by American Petroleum Institute found that increased exports of LNG could support between 220,000 and 452,000 more jobs for the U.S. labor market and add up to $73 billion to the U.S. economy by 2040.

Restricting energy activity in the Gulf of Mexico will impact the supply of crude oil, petroleum products, and liquified natural gas when there’s no scientific evidence to support a vast habitat that spans from Texas to Florida, as the Service is proposing. Without a solid foundation of scientific, fully peer-reviewed data, and observations, the current proposal raises serious concerns that the Service does not have adequate scientific evidence to base its proposed designation.

The RRC acknowledges that conservation of the environment and biodiversity are important issues; however, a proposal to designate such an expansive area as critical habitat with serious ramifications requires more scientific proof and reasonable consideration.

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