Exclusive: TAEP To Join EPA “Produced Water” Study With Texas Water Management Report Of Its Own

October 4, 2018   Oil and gas production and the resulting extensive use of water in Texas has exploded over the past two years, with management of produced water becoming such a critical concern that the EPA is preparing to set policies, and independent producers are getting involved in the process. The US Environmental Protection Agency has embarked on what it calls an "extensive study" to find alternatives to the use of underground injection to dispose of water used in fracking operations. Meanwhile, the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers (TAEP) has prepared remarks that will be considered at a Washington EPA hearing next Tuesday, during which the TAEP will announce its own study of how produced water might be handled as part of wider water management policies. "Produced water" is a term for "non-recoverable" water mixed with hydrocarbons and other substances such as sand used in oil and gas drilling The EPA study is intended to find federal approaches to produced water management under the Clean Water Act, and how they "can interact more effectively with state and tribal regulations, requirements or policy needs, and whether potential federal regulations that may allow for broader discharge of treated produced water to surface waters are supported." In comments to be presented to the EPA by TAEP, the alliance emphasizes the 2017 Legislature's preference that federal control over water management be delegated to the state, or at least developed in close cooperation with Texas authorities. In a TAEP report three years ago, it was emphasized that water management policies should include the primary consideration of local conditions, and how best to encourage the recycling and reuse of water, "without stifling the oil and gas industry." A second conclusion from the report was that the "Texas oil, gas and water treatment industries are poised to consolidate their gains if legal, regulatory and economic policies properly align." Because the industry has grown so significantly in the years since the report -- with nearly four million barrels of oil now produced daily in Texas -- the TAEP said Thursday it's preparing a new report to be called "Sustainable Produced Water Policy, Regulatory Framework and Management in the Texas Oil and Gas Industry: 2019 and Beyond," due in the first half of 2019. In a letter to the EPA, TAEP President John Tintera noted that "the Texas Legislature supports the delegation of federal statutes to the State. "In 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 (attached), which called on 'the executive branch and the Congress of the United States to work in conjunction with the State of Texas to identify federal regulations promulgated during the last eight years, especially those promulgated under the authority of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of the Interior, and the United States Department of Energy, and determine whether they should be revised, delegated to state agencies, or eliminated in order to ease the overly burdensome regulatory patchwork on the oil and gas industry in Texas'. In the argument for delegating more federal permitting authority over water management, Tintera also noted an Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission statement in which the "spirit of cooperative federalism" is cited, as is Presidential Executive Order 13777, calling for more delegation of federal regulatory authority to the states. That February 2017 Executive Order called on federal agencies to organize regulatory reform and created the US Regulatory Reform Task Force to recommend repeal, replacement, or modification of "outdated, unnecessary or ineffective" regulations.  
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