Oil, gas producers concerned over lesser prairie chicken regulations

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WICHITA, Kan. — Monday, the Kansas congressional delegation got an earful from members of the Kansas oil and gas industry over federal regulations.

One of those issues is the federal government's decision to designate the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. Kansas is joining a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the listing.

Tom Casey with Express Well Service says the rules would prevent activity during certain months between three and nine am.

"It creates a problem for people who want to drill wells where the drilling rights operate 24 hours a day," Casey said.

Five states, including Kansas, have a special exemption to proceed with a state conservation plan for the bird whose numbers have dropped 84 percent.

"Leave it to the states," said Senator Pat Roberts. "We have a good plan, most of which is praying for rain."

"The prairie chicken is a dumb bird," Congressman Tim Huelskamp said. "That's all they know."

The remark prompted laughter from the KIOGA crowd.

But it's no laughing matter for Casey. Even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service praised the state plan to save the prairie chicken, Casey says federal regulations are problematic.

"So I think it's impacting drilling in western Kansas, and that means less money for farmers who get mineral rights from these wells," Casey said.

KIOGA members said in order for the state's oil business to survive, they need to be able to keep federal regulations on their business in check.

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