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'It's pouring' on fossil fuel industry: Chilton

A combination of low commodity prices and regulatory action has crushed fossil fuel companies' ability to operate, a former Commodity Futures Trading Commission head contended Thursday.

"It's really pouring on the fossil fuel industry," former Commissioner Bart Chilton said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Chilton's comments came after two more energy companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, joining dozens of others. Coal producer Peabody Energy made the move Wednesday, citing "unprecedented" challenges like low coal prices, a weak Chinese economy and regulatory changes. On Thursday, oil and gas producer Energy XXI followed suit as oil prices hover around $40 per barrel.

Bart Chilton
Brendan Hoffman | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Bart Chilton

Chilton contended the sustained low prices for oil and natural gas, plus the Obama administration's emissions regulations and emphasis on renewable energy, have made it "hard to stay in business."

"They cannot make it at these prices," he said of fossil fuel companies.

The Obama administration has emphasized cleaner energy sources to reduce pollution and combat climate change. One of Obama's possible successors, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has called for a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, which helped to drive a U.S. energy boom.

Chilton added that, in the current environment, operating may not get any easier for fossil fuel companies.