Texas and Oklahoma want to take over enforcement from the federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) for some wastewater discharges associated with the oil and gas industry, including produced water.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (“ODEQ”) have made the request. This follows Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signing a bill requiring the TCEQ to submit to the EPA no later than Sept. 1, 2021, a request for delegation of NPDES permitting authority to be assigned to the Railroad Commission of Texas (“RRC”).
Currently, the RRC has authority in the state to permit wastewater discharges from oil and gas operations, but EPA has not granted it federal NPDES permitting authority to authorize such discharges.
This means that to discharge oil and gas wastewater, a company seeking a permit would need authorization from both the RRC and EPA. EPA presently does not allow the discharge of the most traditional oil and gas related wastewaters (e.g., produced water, drilling and completion fluids, etc.) into streams, creeks, rivers or similar waterways that are waters of the United States except in very narrow instances.
According to an article from Locke Lord LLP, “Texas regulators believe that suitable treatment technologies now exist making discharge of treated wastewater from the oil and gas industry more viable and adequately protective of the environment, so that assuming permit authority over such discharges makes sense.”