Discharges

Currently, a person may be required to obtain a federal permit and a state permit to discharge oil and gas wastes to surface water in the state. You may contact EPA Region 6 for more information.

Section 26.131(b) of the Texas Water Code prohibits the Railroad Commission from issuing a permit for a discharge that will cause a violation of the Surface Water Quality Standards adopted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The federal Clean Water Act requires the TCEQ to revise these standards at least once every three years. These standards include numerical criteria for 35 toxic pollutants. The 35 toxic pollutants consist almost entirely of herbicides, pesticides, and metals. The metals are of prime importance in oil and gas discharges, as water produced from oil and gas formations may contain trace amounts of various metals. An applicant for a discharge permit may be required to submit information to demonstrate that the proposed discharge will not cause a violation of the standards.

Although the Commission has the jurisdiction to regulate the disposal of all oil and gas wastes, very few such wastes are discharged to surface water in the state. The Railroad Commission regulates three major categories of discharges to surface waters: discharge of hydrostatic test water; discharge of oil and gas wastes from a gas plant; and discharge of produced water.

HYDROSTATIC DISCHARGE

The discharge of water used to test the integrity of storage tanks and pipelines under Commission jurisdiction may require a minor permit. A hydrostatic test water permit application is by letter of request. Other details are outlined in Rule 8(d)(6)(G).

GAS PLANT DISCHARGE

Historically, application to discharge oil and gas wastes from a gas plant was made on Form R-8. In the past, Form R-8 was used to apply for a discharge permit, and in some cases, a permit to use a gas plant evaporation/retention pit. Form R-8 has been discontinued. A gas plant effluent discharge permit application is by letter of request and all pit permit applications are made on the Form H-11. Details of the permitting process, including notice requirements, for both discharges and pits can be found in Rule 8(d)(6).

Historically, a gas plant discharge permit consisted of an acknowledgment by the Commission of the filing of Form R-8. Now, gas plant discharge permits are issued with various effluent criteria.

The 1984 amendments to Rule 8 did not affect the validity of gas plant discharge permits issued prior to adoption of those amendments. Likewise, gas plant evaporation/retention pits previously authorized by the Commission were not required to be repermitted under the terms of the 1984 amendments unless those pits were used to store or dispose of produced water.

PRODUCED WATER

Historically, no form has existed for making application for a produced water discharge permit. A permit application to discharge produced water to inland waters and a permit application to discharge produced water to the Gulf of Mexico are each by letter of request. However, data on collecting pits and skimming pits must be provided on permit application Form H-11. Discharge of produced water to bays, estuaries, and tidal areas with the exception of the Gulf of Mexico, is no longer permitted. Other details of the permitting process, including notice requirements, are outlined in Rule 8(d)(6).

Since the 1984 amendments of Rule 8, separate permits have been issued for discharge and any associated collecting and skimming pits. The discharge permit may contain effluent criteria for various contaminants such as oil and grease. The pit permit only addresses the design, construction, and operation of the pit.

The 1984 amendments of Rule 8 required that each existing pit used for storage or disposal of oil field brines go through a repermitting process. This requirement applied to existing collecting and skimming pits at discharge facilities. However, this repermitting process applied only to the pits and not to any permit restrictions on the quality of the actual discharge.

STORM WATER

Permits will distinguish between contact stormwater and non-contact stormwater. Contact stormwater is stormwater water that has come into contact with oil and gas waste. Contact stormwater is considered oil and gas waste and must be managed, stored and contained separated from non-contact stormwater and disposed of in an authorized manner. Discharge of contact stormwater is prohibited.

Non-contact stormwater is stormwater that has not contacted oil and gas waste. Non-contact stormwater may be dischaged from facilities under RRC jurisdiction without a permit. However, a permit from EPA may be required and Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be followed when managing non-contact stormwater.

ON-SITE SEWAGE FACILITY (OSSF)

In general, On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSFs) are under the jurisdiction of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). TCEQ jurisdiction includes OSSFs constructed and used at living quarters for oil and gas personnel, unless the OSSF is located at a well site under the jurisdiction of RRC or a RRC-permitted facility.

An OSSF may be constructed, operated, and maintained within the boundaries of a RRC-permitted facility or at a well site under RRC jurisdiction without an additional permit from the Commission if: the OSSF waste is not commingled with any other oil and gas waste; the system is designed by a professional engineer registered in the state of Texas or a sewage system installer licensed in the state of Texas; and the construction, operation, and maintenance of the OSSF complies with all applicable local, county, and state requirements.

Last Updated: 5/18/2016 1:49:56 PM