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Key Texas Environmental Legislation Highlights

With the Texas 83rd Legislature Regular Session and the Governor’s veto deadline now past, brief summaries of new key environmental and energy resources laws are provided below.

HB 788 related to permitting of greenhouse gas emissions

Prefaced by a finding that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the preferred permitting authority for emissions of greenhouse gases, this bill requires TCEQ to adopt rules to transition authority over the greenhouse gas permitting to Texas. The bill authorizes TCEQ to submit any necessary State Implementation Plan revisions to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to impose fees for emissions of greenhouse gases to the extent necessary to cover the agency’s reasonably necessary direct costs. However, the timeline for completing the transition is not established.

Click here for the full text of the bill.

SB 1756 related to expedited processing of air quality applications

This bill requires TCEQ to establish an expedited permitting process for air quality applications if the applicant demonstrates that the purpose of the application will benefit the economy of the state or an area of the state. The expediting of an application does not affect a contested case hearing or applicable requirements including notice, opportunity for public hearing and submission of public comment, and the agency may impose a surcharge to an application fee to cover expenses incurred with an expedited application.

Click here for the full text of the bill.

HB 2767 related to treatment and recycling of “fluid oil and gas waste”

This bill provides that ownership of “fluid oil and gas waste” (which includes hydraulic fracturing fluid and produced water) is transferred to the person who takes possession of that waste for the purpose of treating the waste for a subsequent beneficial use until the person transfers the waste or treated waste to another person for disposal or use unless expressly provided otherwise by a contract or other legally binding document. The person who takes possession of the “fluid oil and gas waste” and transfers the treated product to another for use in connection with the oil and gas drilling or production is not liable in tort for damages except in an action for personal injury, death or property damage. According to the House Research Organization bill analysis, supporters of the bill’s passage believe that the bill will remove barriers to recycling water resulting from oil and gas exploration.

Click here for the full text of the bill.  

HB 2982 related to Texas Railroad Commission oversight of rural gathering pipelines

This bill authorizes the Texas Railroad Commission to regulate gathering pipelines in rural areas that were previously not subject to regulation. Rules adopted by the Texas Railroad Commission that apply to intrastate transportation of hazardous liquids and carbon dioxide by gathering pipelines in rural locations and intrastate hazardous liquid and carbon dioxide gathering pipeline facilities in rural locations would need to be based on the risks the transportation and the facilities present to public safety.

Click here for the full text of the bill

SB 514 related to saltwater pipeline facilities

Under this amendment to Chapter 91 of the Natural Resources Code, a saltwater pipeline operator may install, maintain and operate a saltwater pipeline facility through, under, along, across or over a public road only if the pipeline facility complies with applicable Texas Transportation Commission rules and county and municipal regulations, ensures that the public road and associated facilities are promptly restored and the saltwater pipeline operator leases the right-of-way and pays for the fair market value of its use, unless the installation, maintenance and operation of the saltwater pipeline facility is otherwise authorized. During the legislative process, the bill received support from both environmental interests and the oil and gas sector as it was viewed to encourage the use of pipelines rather than trucks to transport oil and gas waste associated with hydraulic fracturing activities.

Click here for the full text of the bill

SB 900 related to the penalty authority of the Texas Railroad Commission

The maximum penalty amounts for violation of statutes under the jurisdiction of the Texas Railroad Commission are increased by this bill. Significant increases for the statutory maximum penalties for pipeline safety violations are established.

Click here for the full text of the bill

SB 1300 related to the Texas Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Privilege Act

Under the amendments made to the Texas Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Privilege Act (“Act”) by this bill, a purchaser of new assets initiating an audit on or after September 1, 2013, may now avail itself of the privilege and immunity protections under the Act. Previously, these protections were only available to facility owners and operators. With this change in the law, purchasers who begin audits before becoming owners of regulated facilities may continue an audit initiated pre-acquisition and ultimately avail themselves of the Act’s protections if they provide notice of the audit and disclosure of violations to the appropriate regulatory agency no later than 45 days after the acquisition closing date. The required notice of the audit must certify that: (i) the purchaser was not responsible for the scope of environmental, health, or safety compliance being audited; (ii) the purchaser did not have the largest ownership share of the seller; (iii) the seller did not have the largest ownership share of the purchaser; and (iv) the purchaser and seller did not have a common majority interest owner or corporate parent.

Click here for the full text of the bill

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About this Author

Partner

Lisa's practice focuses on environmental, health and safety counseling, compliance and liability. She has extensive experience analyzing environmental, health and safety issues associated with corporate and securities matters as well as transactions involving contaminated properties including Brownfield redevelopment. Lisa works with a broad array of industries from chemical and semiconductor companies to the full spectrum of energy companies from coal and oil and gas to renewables and clean fuels such as solar, wind and bio mass projects. She has worked with industry associations and...

512-320-9222
Lydia González Gromatzky, Andrews Kurth Law Firm, Environmental Attorney "
Of Counsel

Lydia has a broad-based regulatory, transactional and litigation practice involving domestic and Latin American environmental law. She has extensive experience advising clients on permitting, compliance, enforcement and remediation matters.

She has represented national and international clients in a wide range of industry sectors, including energy, chemical manufacturing and electronics companies, on waste, water and air regulatory issues. She has also counseled multi-national companies and trade associations on compliance and regulatory issues arising under Latin American domestic laws.

Before entering private practice, Lydia served as head of the Office of Legal Services of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). During her tenure at TCEQ, she served as lead counsel on numerous contested agency proceedings and provided legal representation on complex and controversial issues facing the state in all environmental media.

Ms. González Gromatzky is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. She is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese and is a frequent speaker and writer on the subject of environmental law.

512-320-9231