Until now, if an oil and gas operator wanted to do anything with water recovered from oil and gas production, the only practical option was to go to the Texas Railroad Commission for a re-injection permit or to use a permitted third-party saltwater disposal well. Due to the work of the Texas legislature in 2019 and of Governor Abbott, new regulations have been issued that will soon allow permits to be issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) for the treatment, discharge and re-use of that produced water. With this development, produced water may become an asset for sale, not just a waste that must be disposed of the producer’s cost.
Governor Abbott directed the TCEQ to seek NPDES permit program approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and that approval has now been issued. The practical effect of that action is that the TCEQ can now issue permits without having to go through the EPA. Two general permits are expected to be available by the end of the summer of 2021. For operations that do not meet the requirements of the general permits, individual permits may be obtained as well.