EPA Report Recognizes Railroad Commission’s Underground Injection Control Program

Mitigating Environmental Risks

July 29, 2020

AUSTIN – The Railroad Commission continues to make positive strides with its Underground Injection Control program, ensuring the protection of underground sources of drinking water and the control of seismic activity, according to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report titled, “2019 EPA Region 6 End-Of-Year Evaluation Railroad Commission of Texas Underground Injection Control Program,” can be found here on RRC’s website.

RRC’s UIC program protects the state’s drinking water and controls seismic activity through enforcement of EPA-approved rules on permitting, construction, and testing of underground injection wells. Injection wells are used to process waste fluid from oil and gas operations, especially water with high levels of brine; for brine mining; for enhanced recovery, which prolongs the life of oil and gas fields; and hydrocarbon storage. Wells are located in underground formations geologically separate from aquifers that are sources of drinking water.

“The Railroad Commission continues to confront significant challenges in the program and has taken some innovative measures to address them,” the summary of EPA’s report reads.

“The EPA’s report acknowledges the efforts of Railroad Commission staff to responsibly manage injection wells to protect our natural resources and mitigate any seismic activity because of them,” said Paul Dubois, RRC Assistant Director for Technical Permitting. “We will continue to work with our federal counterparts to build on and improve our work to help protect Texans.”

Among the report’s key findings include:

  • More than half of all injection wells in the state are inspected annually. The EPA report notes that “Those numbers assure more than adequate inspection and monitoring surveillance actions.”
  • The report also noted that RRC rules enacted in November 2014, a guidance document adopted in 2019, and increased UIC staffing “enhance RRC authority regarding seismicity related to Class II disposal … and establish new permit application information to address seismic risk in problematic areas of the State.”
  • A recognition of RRC’s critical review of disposal well applications, which resulted in 65 permits issued with special conditions, 19 withdrawn or returned applications, hearings scheduled for 56, and three permits issued without any special conditions. Also, the agency evaluated the role of two disposal wells in an earthquake near Timpson in September 2018, which resulted in the modification of one permit to reduce pressure and the canceling of the other permit.

About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.