RAPID/Geothermal/Texas/Water Quality

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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Texas Geothermal Water Quality Assessment(14-TX)

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.

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Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.

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