On August 12, 2013, the RRC issued, for informal comments, several proposed amendments relating to disposal and injection wells (16 TAC § 3.9), operations in hydrogen sulfide areas (16 TAC §3.36), and fluid injection into productive reservoirs (16 TAC §3.46). Though only a working draft, not yet submitted to the Texas Register for publication and public comment, these draft rules warrant attention because they propose important changes concerning the permitting of injection disposal wells in Texas.

Among the proposed changes are provisions affecting groundwater protection, amended notice requirements, and new approval requirements for the transfer of commercial disposal wells.

Groundwater Protection: The amendments impose additional requirements on disposal well permit applicants. For example, disposal well permit applicants must demonstrate (i) at least 250 feet of impermeable strata, of which 100 feet must be continuous, between the injection interval and usable quality water; and (ii) at least 100 feet of continuous impermeable strata between the injection interval and the underground source of drinking water. Additionally, applicants must show that all unplugged wells within the Area of Review (the “AOR”, which is a 1/4 mile radius around the proposed well) have been cemented across the disposal interval to prevent migration into drinking water sources.

Amended Notice Requirements: The proposed amendments mandate that permit applicants include additional information in notices, including partial copies of the application and a map identifying the proposed well location. The changes also expand the definition of “affected person” to include (1) groundwater conservation districts covered by the well location, and (2) mineral interest owners for all tracts within 1/2 mile of the proposal disposal well, including unleased mineral interest owners.

Approval of Commercial Disposal Well Transfers: The proposed changes eliminate automatic transfers of commercial well operatorship. Instead, all commercial well transfers are subject to written approval by the RRC after inspection and review of the compliance history for each permit.

Hydrogen Sulfide Notice: The draft amendments require that notice of an application for an injection well of injection fluids containing hydrogen sulfide be given to an expanded list of affected persons, including city and county clerks, and provide specific types of information that must be provided.

Productive Reservoir Permits: The draft amendments provide more detailed permitting requirements for any person wishing to inject fluid into a reservoir productive of oil, gas and geothermal resources. It also expands the list of affected persons who must be notified of permit applications for such facilities, and the information that should be provided to them.

Informal comments were filed by a substantial number of affected businesses and industry, nonprofit, and trade organizations. Before adopting the revised rules, however, the RRC must publish the draft rules in the Texas Register and provide a formal comment period.