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Texas oil producers were cutting output before Railroad Commission chose not to, Commissioner Christi Craddick says

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At center, Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick during a hearing at the capitol. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick on Tuesday doubled down on the agency’s recent decision to not cut oil production and provided more detail on what discussions looked like in the weeks leading up to that high-profile vote.

“I think we’ve clearly made the right decision in my mind,” Craddick said during a live interview with The Texas Tribune. “Look at where we are and what has happened just in the last couple of weeks. And it’s even more important to back up a few weeks before we took the vote of what was beginning to happen within the industry — they were cutting themselves.”

Craddick’s comments came a week after the 3-member commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, decided against taking action to curb Texas oil production. The agency hasn’t cut production since the 1970s. That recent decision came after some of the state’s oil producers appeared split about production cuts at a marathon public hearing during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Craddick and Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian opposed cutting production; outgoing Commissioner Ryan Sitton supported it.

The push to cut production came on the heels of two major hits to the industry: An overseas oil price war that flared up between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Texas officials’ restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus that halted the state’s economy. That prompted oil prices to plummet to their lowest prices in decades, which sent the state, a top oil producer in the country, financially reeling since its economy and budget are highly sensitive to oil prices.

Craddick said Tuesday that the agency had started seeing cuts within the industry before the pandemic gripped the state.

“Our April 2020 numbers reflect where we were in February — and we had already seen production cuts … of about 300 to 400,000 barrels at that point,” she said. “We were beginning to see cuts to begin with.”