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

Production Cut Would Create Opportunity for a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production

AUSTIN – Texas should immediately slash production of oil and gas in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Public Citizen’s Texas office Director Adrian Shelley testified today at a virtual hearing of the state Railroad Commission. 

Shelley told the commission, which regulates the Texas oil and gas industry, that reduced demand for fossil fuels reflects a global trend exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and precipitated by the climate crisis and the rapid advance of clean energy and storage technologies. The Texas Railroad Commission has not considered cutting crude oil production since 1973 but now is wrestling with the question in response to massive upheaval in oil and gas markets. 

Texas and the nation are experiencing historic oil and gas surpluses and low prices. Supply exceeds demand and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, Shelley said. 

Shelley testified that the pandemic could lead to permanent changes in energy demand. He predicted that many Americans will continue teleworking, shopping online and holding virtual social gatherings after the crisis subsides, driving down oil and gas demand even more. 

“Offshore drilling, fracking and excessive flaring are practices that damage the environment and jeopardize public health,” said Shelley. “We can stop these practices now. The commission can help limit waste, including by targeting production cuts at those oil and gas producers with the worst track records of excessive flaring. 

“We can end offshore drilling and drilling in protected lands,” Shelley added. “We can cut production from drillers who engage in wasteful practices such as flaring.” 

The Permian Basin in West Texas flares more climate damaging methane than any other oil and gas producing region in the world, according to a study by the University of Wyoming and the Environmental Defense Fund. Cutting waste in this high-producing area could provide lasting climate benefits.  

“As Texas adjusts to a new energy market, it should invest in clean technologies such as wind, solar and energy storage,” Shelley said. “Texas must respond to shifting global demand. Our oil and gas workforce need a path forward. The commission should help manage the transition into the clean economy of the future.”