Geothermal Environment in Texas
At a Glance
|Environmental Review Process:||None|
|Environmental Review Agency:|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Leasing Stage):||None|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Non-invasive Exploration):||None|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration):||None|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Drilling):||None|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting):||None|
|Contacts/Agencies:||Texas Historical Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Railroad Commission of Texas|
State Environment Process
Texas does not have a state environmental review process. However, developers must comply with cultural resource, biological resource, water quality, air quality, and hazardous waste and materials rules where applicable.
Cultural Resource Assessment
Developers must comply with Texas state law when human remains or other cultural resources are discovered on the project site. The discovery of cultural resources may require obtaining a permit and providing public notice and notice to Indian Tribes.
Developers must comply with specified procedures when human remains are found on the project site. Developers are required to notify law enforcement immediately if human remains are discovered. A justice of the peace will then conduct and inquest into the death of the person. CCP Art. 49.04. Following a full investigation into the death of the person, the justice of the peace will remove the remains from the project site if such action is necessary.
Developers are required to inform the Texas Historical Commission (THC) before breaking ground at a project location on state or local public land. NRC Sec. 191.0525(a). Some activities fall within a categorical exclusion, and do not require the developer to notify THC prior to breaking ground. For example, mineral exploration, production, processing, marketing, refining, or transportation facilities which cross state or local public roads fall under a categorical exclusion with limited exceptions. NRC Sec. 191.0525(e)(14). If notification to the THC is necessary, then the THC will conduct an initial project review to determine whether a historically significant archaeological site is likely to be present at the project location and whether an archaeological survey is necessary. NRC Sec. 191.0525(a). If the THC determines that an archaeological survey is necessary, then they will conduct the survey or the developer may hire a third party surveyor. The THC may determine that the site is a state archaeological landmark following the survey. If so, the developer may not pursue excavation of the site until a permit is obtained from the THC. NRC Sec. 191.131.
Biological Resource Assessment Process
Developers must obtain a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to relocate a threatened or endangered species. Threatened species are listed in 31 TAC 65.175. Endangered species are listed in 31 TAC 65.176. Developers must hire a qualified environmental consultant to remove and relocate a listed species. The qualified environmental consultant will then apply for a Letter of Authorization from TPWD to relocate the listed species. Upon approval, the TPWD will issue a Letter of Authorization to the environmental consultant to capture and relocate the listed species.
Water Resource Assessment
Developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, NPDES compliance, underground injection control, 401 water quality certification, and wastewater discharge.
Developers may comply with nonpoint source pollution regulations in Texas. The nonpoint source pollution management program is jointly administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB). Developers should contact the TCEQ for information on the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and recommended Best Management Practices (BMPs) based on the location and type of project. BMPs are suggested procedures and protocols for reducing TMDLs. Following suggested BMPs is entirely voluntary.
Developers must obtain a NPDES Permit if their project will result in the discharge of pollutants from a point source. EPA has given the TCEQ the authority to administer NPDES requirements. The TCEQ and the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) have a Memorandum of Understanding granting the RRC jurisdiction to regulate discharges related to oil, gas, and geothermal in Texas. However, the EPA has not granted authority to the RRC to administer NPDES requirements. As a result, geothermal developers must apply both to the EPA and the RRC in order to properly permit a point source pollutant discharge. Developers must submit a Letter of Request to the RRC for a NPDES Permit. The RRC may not issue a permit for a discharge that will cause a violation of the Surface Water Quality Standards adopted by the TCEQ. Tex. Water Code 26.131(b). The RRC must provide public notice of the request, and the developer may be required to participate in a public hearing if one is requested. The RRC may approve or deny the request for a permit. If the RRC issues a permit, then it will include conditions reasonably necessary to prevent the waste of oil, gas, or geothermal resources.
Developers must obtain an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permit from the RRC for geothermal injection wells. RRC regulations and application procedures vary depending on the class of injection well, so developers should contact the RRC to determine which class of well is necessary for their project. The RRC will provide the developer with the appropriate UIC application. All classes of wells require the RRC to provide public notice, and may require the developer to participate in a public hearing if one is requested. If a UIC permit is issued, the developer is required to submit a Completion Report to RRC following completion of the new injection well.
Developers must obtain a 401 Water Quality Certification from the RRC if their geothermal project implicates any federal license or permit issued to construct or operate a facility which may result in any fill or discharge into navigable waters of the United States. The Texas 401 certification process is initiated by the federal agency that has jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The implicated federal agency will be required to provide public notice of the application and any draft permits developed. The public will be allowed to comment, and the developer may be required to participate in a public hearing if one is requested. The RRC may approve or deny a request for a permit, and the developer will have an opportunity to appeal that decision.
Developers must obtain a Groundwater Discharge Permit from the RRC if their project requires use of a pit. Pits are used in drilling operations to contain drilling-related fluids and to prevent the contamination of groundwater and surface water. If a pollutant discharge will be made from the pit, then the developer will also have to apply for an RRC discharge permit and an EPA NPDES permit if the discharge is to waters of the United States. Certain types of discharges related to drilling operations do not require a pit or permit, these discharges are outlined in RRC Rule 8(d)(3). Developers must submit an Application for Permit to Maintain and Use a Pit with RRC, and must submit all required associated documents. RRC must provide public notice to affected parties, and the developer may be required to participate in a public hearing if requested. RRC may approve or deny issuance of a pit permit, and will provide the developer with justifications for denial. Developers may appeal the decision to deny a permit.
Air Quality Assessment Process
Developers must obtain an Air Quality Permit to Construct from TCEQ if they plan to construct a new facility that will emit air contaminants. Facilities or sources that meet certain conditions provided in 30 TAC 116.119 do not require a permit. Facilities with emissions that will not make a significant contribution of air contaminants may be permitted by rule as outlined in 30 TAC 106. Developers may qualify for a Standard Permit or a New Source Review Permit. A Standard Permit authorizes the construction of new facilities that are similar in terms of operations, processes, and emissions. New Source Review Permits are approved on a case-by-case basis. The TCEQ will inform the developer when public notice of the application is required by sending a public notice packet with all necessary information. Developers will then be required to file a copy of the public notice and a publisher’s affidavit with the TCEQ. The TCEQ is responsible for providing public notice of any preliminary decision on the application and draft permit, and the developer may be required to participate in a public hearing if one is requested.
Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process
Developers must obtain an Underground Storage Tank (UST) Permit from TCEQ prior to operating an underground storage tank system. Texas defines “underground storage tank system” as an underground storage tank, all associated underground piping and underground ancillary equipment, spill and overfill prevention equipment, release detection equipment, corrosion protection system, secondary containment equipment, and all other related systems and equipment. Certain systems may be exempted or excluded from regulation under 30 TAC 334.3(a) and 30 TAC 334.4(a). If a UST Permit is required, developers must submit a Construction Notification Form. The TCEQ may request additional information if necessary. In addition, developers are required to complete the Financial Assurance Certification process under 30 TAC 37.870(b).
Local Environment Process
Policies & Regulations
- An Introduction to Electric Power Transmission
- Fact Sheet - Air Quality Permitting
- RRC - Affidavit of Publication for surface disposal
- RRC - Injection/Disposal Well Permitting, Testing, and Monitoring manual
- RRC - Supplemental Application Information for Permit to Maintain and Use a Commercial Oil and Gas Waste Disposal Pit
- RRC - Surface Waste Management Manual
- Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool
- TCEQ - Texas Nonpoint Source Management Program Manual
- Texas Beachfront Construction Webpage
- Texas General Land Office Local Permitting Authorities Webpage
- Texas Petroleum Storage Tanks Webpage
- Texas Surface Water Quality Standards Webpage