The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) the authority and responsibility to manage the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, under the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA), in the state.
Under EPA’s delegation of authority, the TCEQ is now the permitting authority for wastewater discharges from oil and gas activities, pipelines, and natural gas processing plants in the state.
Texas Best Suited to Protect Its Waters
Governor Greg Abbott directed TCEQ to seek authority to manage the federal NPDES program with his signature on Texas House Bill 2771, on June 14, 2019. Abbott, the legislature, the Texas Railroad Commission, and TECQ agreed, Texas was best suited to manage wastewater discharges from oil and gas operations.
EPA agreed, granting TCEQ NPDES permitting authority on January 15, 2020.
“After a rigorous review process, we are pleased to announce that the state of Texas will take responsibility of this Clean Water Act program,” said Ken McQueen, EPA Region 6 administrator, in a statement. “This action will help Texas administer a process for the regulated community without unnecessary and duplicative permitting processes and ensure the best environmental and economic outcomes.”
EPA’s action does not alter federal standards the state must meet for oil and gas discharges, rather it allows the state to design the system for meeting these standards and issue permits for and monitor compliance with discharge standards.
“TCEQ looks forward to working on permits pursuant to this program delegation,” said Emily Lindley, TCEQ Commissioner, in a statement from the agency upon it receiving the federal delegation of authority to run the program. “For the past year and a half, staff worked tirelessly to make sure our application was complete and accurate. This delegation will serve Texans well.”
Open for Business
Existing permits issued by the EPA remain valid until their expiration date, at which time regulated entities will have to apply to TCEQ for any required permit renewal.
With the permitting authority in hand, TECQ began accepting applications for new NPDES permits on January 20
“TCEQ is well-suited for wastewater permitting, as it has Water Quality staff who currently issue wastewater permits under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program that have state and federal requirements for other industrial and municipal facilities, and TCEQ is the air permitting agency for oil and gas,” said a statement from the agency.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.