Chapter I - History

Surface Waste Management & Water Protection Regulation

Since 1980, the Railroad Commission of Texas (Commission) has amended its statewide rules pertaining to water protection, has adopted new rules, and has been granted additional enforcement authority. The following is a summary:


  • The Texas Legislature authorized the Commission to assess administrative penalties of up to $10,000 per day for a violation of its environmental or safety rules. The Commission also established a new Legal Enforcement Section to administer the administrative penalty program (1983).
  • The Commission amended Rule 8 on the storage and disposal of oil and gas wastes (1984).
  • The Commission was given authority to require a performance bond or other form of financial security for the proper operation and closure of commercial disposal facilities (1985).


  • The Commission amended Rule 57 on the reclamation of tank bottoms and other crude oil wastes to require reclamation plant operators to file bonds to ensure that their plants are operated and closed in accordance with Commission rules. The amendment also expanded the permitting requirements for the disposal of tank bottoms (1990).
  • S.B. 830 amended Chapter 91 of the Natural Resources Code to include a requirement that the Commission implement a program to provide operators with training and technical assistance on oil and gas waste reduction and minimization; assist operators in developing oil and gas waste reduction and minimization plans; and, by rule, establish incentives for oil and gas wastes reduction and minimization (1991).
  • The Texas Legislature enacted a new statute, S.B. 1103, which replaced the existing well plugging fund with a larger, more comprehensive oil field cleanup fund. It created new sources of revenue for the fund and authorized the Commission to use the monies in the fund for several specific environmental purposes. It also established new financial responsibility requirements for oil and gas operators and gave the Commission greater authority to regulate hazardous oil and gas waste and haulers of oil and gas waste (1991).
  • The Commission adopted a new rule (Rule 22) requiring oil and gas operators to take measures to protect migratory birds from tanks and pits (1991).
  • The Commission adopted a number of rule amendments to implement its new statutory authorities under S.B. 1103, including amendments to its permit requirements for haulers of oil and gas wastes (1992).
  • The Commission adopted a new rule (Rule 91) establishing numerical standards and procedures for the cleanup of crude oil spills into non-sensitive areas (1993).
  • The Commission adopted a new rule (Rule 94) establishing standards for disposal of oil and gas (naturally occurring radioactive material) NORM waste (1995).
  • The Commission adopted a new rule (Rule 98) establishing standards for management of hazardous oil and gas waste (1996).
  • The Commission adopted a new rule (Rule 93) to implement the portions of the Texas Coastal Management Program applicable to water quality certification (1997).
  • Amendments to Rule 8 went into effect to implement the portions of the Texas Coastal Management Program applicable to water protection (1997).
  • The Commission adopted a new rule (Rule 30), relating to a memorandum of understanding between the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the Commission regarding jurisdiction over oilfield wastes (1998).
  • The Commission adopted amendments to Rules 78 and 57 concerning financial security for reclamation plants and commercial disposal facilities. The amendments require financial security in the form of a bond or letter of credit to ensure proper closure of these facilities (1998).


  • The Commission adopted amendments to former Rule 94 now Chapter 4, Subchapter F, relating to identification and tagging of oil and gas equipment contaminated with NORM (2003).


  • The Commission adopted new rules (Chapter 4, Subchapter B) to establish application requirements and operating standards for commercial recycling facilities (2013).
  • The Commission expanded the recycling rules under Chapter 4, Subchapter B to include a permit for “alternative beneficial reuse” of treated oil and gas waste solids other than for reuse as roadbase material (2016).
  • The Commission expanded the minor permit types under Rule 8 to include recycling of treated domestic wastewater and the waste streams generated from mobile drinking water treatment systems (2016).


  • Texas House Bill (HB) 2771 amended Section 26.131 of the Water Code so that the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) may issue permits for the discharge into waters in this state of produced water, hydrostatic test water, and gas plant effluent generated by activities under Commission jurisdiction. Existing discharge permits were transferred to the TCEQ (2021).