April 28, 2020 / 5:02 PM / a month ago

Texas energy regulators to vote on production curtailments in May 5 meeting

(Reuters) - Texas energy regulators will next week vote on a controversial proposal to reduce the state’s oil output after delaying it on concerns of legal challenges.

The vote follows a motion submitted by Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton, who has already been vocal about the need for curtailments to address historically low oil prices.

Oil and gas companies have been gushing red ink and cutting tens of thousands of workers as prices tumble, prompting regulators in the largest U.S. oil-producing state to wade into global oil politics and consider some producers’ calls for cuts.

Sitton's motion calls here for curtailments of 20% of the state's output and if agreed, curbs would remain in place until the Railroad Commission of Texas determines that global demand has crossed 85 million barrels of oil per day.

The agency has a mandate under state law to “prevent waste of the state’s natural resources,” and some argue that the current oversupply of oil and price crash amounts to “economic waste.”

“The presence of ‘waste’ has never been more evident,” said Parsley Energy Chief Executive Matt Gallagher, citing signs of a growing oil glut. “It is my hope that they take this opportunity to lead and vote” in favor of production curbs.”

At a meeting last Tuesday, the day after U.S. crude prices crashed into negative territory for the first time, two of three commissioners opted not to make a decision but agreed to talk about output curbs again on May 5.

Sitton had already said at that meeting he would vote in favor of cutting output by 1 million barrels per day, or 20%. “Taking weeks or even days right now to act is in itself a choice,” Sitton had said.

However the vote was delayed because the other two commissioners, Chairman Wayne Christian and Christi Craddick, said they wanted the state attorney general to weigh in on the legality of production curbs.

Companies and other industry group have been divided on the issue, with Parsley and Pioneer Natural Resources Co supporting curtailments while majors Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp opposing the idea.

Christian declined to comment, and Craddick, Sitton and Pioneer could not be reached for comment immediately.

Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru and Jennifer Hiller in Houston; Editing by Maju Samuel and Marguerita Choy

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