May 9, 2019
A bill is headed for the full Texas Senate is aimed at moving state responsibility for a federal pollutant discharge program from the Railroad Commission to the TCEQ in allowing the discharge of water into rivers and streams.
The bill was heard in the Senate Natural Resources committee Wednesday.
The committee substitute version of Rep. JM Lozano’s HB 2771 was explained by Senate sponsor Sen. Brian Hughes, who told the committee that these days people who want certain discharge permits have to make the rounds of the RRC, the EPA and other agencies, so it makes sense to reduce the load and park the permitting process at the TCEQ.
The state retained some authority through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality over an EPA program that at the TCEQ is called the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System back in 1998 but that authority didn’t include oil and gas.
The bill heard by the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development committee on Wednesday, without a quorum, covers produced water, hydrostatic test water, and gas plant effluent discharged into water.
A committee substitute specifies that even though the TCEQ gains permit control, the RRC would still responsible for cleanups.
HB 2771 is a companion bill to the almost identical SB 1585.
Kaiba White of Public Citizen, speaking against the bill, said it puts in jeopardy millions of gallons of state drinking water.
John Tintera of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, speaking for the bill, pointed out that the bill is based on 2017 Texas legislation signed by the governor calling for the US government to work with Texas on EPA policies and Texas needs to be “regulated by Texans” and that the safety aspects of permits would not be affected by the changes called for in the bill.
The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club‘s Cyrus Reed, against the bill, said the bill is studying existing standards for oil and gas wastewater, finding them “not protective” because of various components in wastewater, so HB 2771 is a case of the legislature moving too fast.