What does the RRC and TCEQ regulate with respect to the oil and gas industry?

In Texas, the oil and gas industry is overseen by two primary entities in the Texas government that assert jurisdiction over oil and gas activities: (1) the Texas Railroad Commission (“RRC”); and (2) the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”).  For instance, the TCEQ is charged with the principal responsibility of implementing the state’s policy of maintaining the quality of water in the state, except the [RRC] is expressly declared to be ‘solely responsible for the control and disposition of waste and the abatement and prevention of pollution of surface and subsurface water resulting from activities associated with the exploration, development, and production of oil or gas.

The Water Code then grants the RRC authority to issue permits for discharge of oil and gas wastes into the waters of the state, but the discharges must meet the water quality standards set forth by the TCEQ.   Similarly, while the TCEQ has jurisdiction over the Injection Well Act in Chapter 27 of the Water Code, the RRC is granted specific authority over injection wells that dispose of oil and gas wastes.

The two agencies have adopted a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), which seeks to clarify the respective jurisdictions of the two agencies.   The MOU provides a very detailed listing and description of the types of waste, both hazardous and nonhazardous, under each agency’s jurisdiction.   Under the MOU, the RRC regulates oil and gas wastes, including oilfield pits, discharges into surface waters, injections wells, and saltwater haulers, and the TCEQ regulates solid, municipal, and hazardous wastes, water quality standards, and waste discharge permits and injection wells, except for permits and wells involving oil and gas wastes.

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