Perhaps it is time to play devil’s advocate for a moment, speaking about why we oppose further development of oil and gas in the lower Laguna Madre. Basically, we think the oil and gas exploration, drilling, and production of oil and gas reserves there would save consequences that outweigh any benefits. Two words: prove it!
Gosh, this is actually a very hard thing to do. We can maintain that the eel grasses and marine life would be irreparably harmed, and already are by the seismic surveying. Prove it! Industry officials will likely say that only a few hundred thousand small fish at most, mainly baitfish, were harmed in any way. Will drilling and further development create underwater noise that confuses the turtles and dolphins? Prove it! At the end of the day, it will be very difficult to say that any particular action in the bay related to oil and gas extraction would hurt anything in the least.
I am saying this to prepare folks as to their expectations, which could be diminished. Right now, we hear, see, and feel the action in the bay and none of it can be very good for the bay and its marine and wetland residents. How could it be? The redfish and trout are scattered and nervous, very hard to catch. Some species such as the Roseate Spoonbill seem to have completely vanished. Some fear damage to the foundation pilings of their houses. To add insult to injury, we just saved over 100 green sea turtles but had to throw them back in where five and a half pound explosives were being set off, several thousand times, with miles of entangling sensor wire connected to seismic phones.
But on the other hand it gets more difficult to make a persuasive argument, since an oil company is operating in the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) just to the north of us. Goodness, that’s a federal park that has to monitor all the endangered species; while they might not have the endangered ocelot, they should have had a higher hurdle to cross than our area, however “natural” we think our area is. True, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has some major land holdings in the area, although very little in the way of title to the mineral rights – and the submerged lands of Laguna Madre is State property. No oil company official would ever say in public that there are looser standards down here, but the precedent at PINS is definitely there.
I just want people to be careful about saying that they are emotionally upset … and might even move away if drilling occurs … but the task of proving true environmental or even economic damage is extremely difficult. We can bitch, moan, whine, and fuss, but what we really need are facts that can be proven - and would hold water under very heavy scrutiny. That is true even if we want to pursue a mitigation agreement that would limit the scope of drilling in the lower Laguna Madre.
As the old lawyer saying goes, otherwise we might as well be suing a ham sandwich.