On February 8, 2013, the TCEQ announced that it would propose a rule to streamline the process for authorizing air emissions plans for oil and gas well sites. The rule will create a permit-by-rule system requiring permit holders to develop a plan and to use best management practices to minimize emissions. The TCEQ expects that the non-mandatory permit-by-rule will be more appealing to owners and operators of eligible oil and gas facilities than other permitting options available to them. The TCEQ is expected to formally announce the proposed rule on February 27. Following the announcement, the public comment period would be open from March 15 through April 15, and the rule would be adopted July 24. Background on the proposed rule is available here.

On February 15, the TRRC released a revised version of a set of rules it previously proposed to prevent potential groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing fluids. The revised rules would ease cement casing requirements and allow operators to use one of three methods to calculate the necessary depth of the casing. The revised rules include a new term—“potential flow zones”—which describes areas that could impose sustained pressure on a well and which operators must plug in order to avoid potential leaks. The rules also retain a requirement that operators test and monitor the mechanical integrity of wells before and during a fracturing treatment. The revised rules are available here.

We will continue to monitor developments in Texas that will impact oil and gas operators.