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Oral Comments: Public Citizen Urges Texas Railroad Commission to Cut Oil and Gas Production

Testimony of Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen's Texas office

My name is Adrian Shelley, and I am the director of the Texas office of Public Citizen. Public Citizen is a national consumer rights advocacy organization that advocates for health and safety, consumer protection, and the environment, among other things.  

 We find ourselves in an unprecedented situation. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a steep decrease in oil and gas demand.  Global markets are oversupplied, and the United States is the leading oil producer, with Texas producing more than any other state. 

Now, the Railroad Commission is being asked whether to cut production in response to the crisis. We believe that it should, and we agree with others who have identified this crisis as an opportunity to begin a responsible and managed decline of fossil fuel use. 

We recommend production cuts be targeted to certain practices and areas, including these three:

  1. Wasteful actors such as those guilty of excessive flaringin the Permian Basin. 
  2. Resource intensive and environmentally hazardouspractices, such as hydraulic fracturing and CO2 injection for enhanced oil recovery. 
  3. Drilling in expensive or unpopular areas, such as offshore, on protected lands,and near culturally or environmentally sensitive  

Looking ahead, we note that global energy demand is changing forever. Specifically: 

  1. Market forces are driving a shift away from coal, oil, and natural gas and toward wind, solar, battery storage, and other clean energy technologies. 
  2. Some changes occurring now due to the coronavirus pandemic may lead to permanent shifts in behavior and consumption. This includes practices such as working from home, online shopping, and virtual social events. 
  3. The climate crisis is met with a global effort to transition to a more sustainable way of life, from more efficient energy use, distributed generation and other advanced energy technologies, and widespread adoption of electric vehicles. 

 At the national level, Public Citizen is very concerned that the Trump Administration’s extensive and personal ties to the oil industry are fueling corporate bailouts. Neither Texas nor the federal government should view this as an opportunity to support uneconomic industries, failing corporations, or wealthy executives.

Instead, we must acknowledge the personal financial crisis occurring in homes across Texas and the nation. Economic relief is needed for people and families. Not corporations.  

As global energy markets change in the ways described above, the Texas economy must adapt.  

Many jobs in the fossil fuel industry do not have a long-term future. A managed decline of fossil fuels must be joined with aggressive and equitable investment in people, their future, and their families. 

Texas and the Railroad Commission must see this crisis as the opportunity that it is.  

A managed decline of fossil fuel use and investment in people will lead to success in Texas for generations to come.