Utilities & Environment

H.B. 30 (Larson/Perry) - Desalination: provides that: (1) each regional water planning group shall indicate in their regional water plan opportunities for and the benefits of developing large-scale desalination facilities for brackish groundwater or seawater that serve local or regional brackish groundwater production zones; and (2) the Texas Water Development Board shall prepare a biennial progress report identifying and designating local or regional brackish groundwater production zones in area of the state with moderate to high availability and productivity of brackish groundwater that can be used to reduce the use of freshwater. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 40 (Darby/Fraser) - Oil and Gas Operations: makes various findings related to the benefits of oil and gas operations in the state and provides that:

  1. An “oil and gas operation” means an activity associated with the exploration, development, production, processing, and transportation of oil and gas, including drilling, hydraulic fracture stimulation, completion, maintenance, reworking, recompletion, disposal, plugging and abandonment, secondary and tertiary recovery, and remediation activities.
  2. An oil and gas operation is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of this state.
  3. Except as provided by (4), below, a city may not enact or enforce an ordinance or other measure, or an amendment or revision of an ordinance or other measure, that bans, limits, or otherwise regulates an oil and gas operation within the boundaries or extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city.
  4. The authority of a city to regulate an oil and gas operation is expressly preempted, except that a city may enact, amend, or enforce an ordinance or other measure that: (a) regulates only above ground activity related to an oil and gas operation that occurs at or above the surface of the ground, including a regulation governing fire and emergency response, traffic, lights, or noise, or imposing notice or reasonable setback requirements; (b) is commercially reasonable; (c) does not effectively prohibit an oil and gas operation conducted by a reasonably prudent operator; and (d) is not otherwise preempted by state or federal law.
  5. “Commercially reasonable” for purposes of (4)(b), above, means a condition that would allow a reasonably prudent operator to fully, effectively, and economically exploit, develop, produce, process, and transport oil and gas, as determined based on the objective standard of a reasonably prudent operator and not on an individualized assessment of an actual operator's capacity to act.
  6. An ordinance or other measure is considered prima facie to be commercially reasonable if the ordinance or other measure has been in effect for at least five years and has allowed the oil and gas operations at issue to continue during that period.

(Effective immediately.)

H.B. 200 (Keffer/Perry) - Groundwater Conservation Districts:provides that: (1)an affected person may file a petition with a groundwater conservation district requiring that the district contract with the State Office of Administrative Hearings to conduct a hearing appealing the reasonableness of an adopted desired future condition; and (2) the district must submit a copy of the petition to the Texas Water Development Board so that the board may review and conduct a study on the desired future condition adopted by the district. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

H.B. 239 (Springer/Perry) - Storage of Flammable Liquids: provides that: (1) the capacity restriction of above ground storage tanks of gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene at a retail service station located in an unincorporated area or in a city with a population of less than 5,000 is removed; and (2) a commissioners court of a county with a population of 3.3 million or more may limit the maximum volume. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 280 (Simmons/Perry) - Texas Water Development Board: requires the Texas Water Development Board to post specific, detailed information regarding the use of the state water implementation fund for Texas on its website. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

H.B. 497 (Wu/Uresti) - Saltwater Pipeline Facilities: redefines a “saltwater pipeline facility” to mean a pipeline facility that conducts water that contains salt and other substances and is intended to be used in drilling or operating a well used in the exploration for or production of oil or gas, including an injection well used for enhanced recovery operations, or is produced during drilling or operating an oil, gas, or other type of well. (Note: Current law allows a saltwater pipeline operator to install, maintain, and operate a saltwater pipeline facility through, under, along, across, or over a public road if certain conditions are met.) (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 655 (Larson/Perry) - Aquifer Storage and Recovery:provides that: (1) a water right holder may undertake an aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) project without completing a pilot project; (2) the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation and permitting of ASR injection wells; (3) the TCEQ may authorize the use of Class V injection wells and adopt technical standards to govern the wells; (4) the project operator must install a meter on each ASR injection and recovery well associated with the ASR project; (5) the project operator shall provide the TCEQ with reports on volume of water injected and recovered; and (6) a project operator must register ASR injection and recovery wells with any groundwater district in which the wells are located. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 801 (King/Eltife) - Prescribed Burns: provides that: (1) for a prescribed burn conducted by the Parks and Wildlife Department, the site-specific plan for the burn must include a map of the designated burn area, including the location of any municipally owned utility; and (2) the department shall provide adequate advance notice of the department’s intent to conduct a prescribed burn to each neighboring landowner and appropriate local officials in the vicinity of the designate burn, including water utility officials with water facilities within two miles of the prescribed burn. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 949 (Lucio/Perry) - Water Loss: allows the Texas Water Development Board to waive the requirement that a retail public utility that receives a loan from the board use a portion of the financial assistance to mitigate the utility’s system water loss, if the board finds that the utility is addressing the system’s water loss. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1146 (Kacal/Schwertner) - Public Water Supply System:provides that: (1) a licensed operator of a water supply system may be a volunteer; and (2) the owner or manager of the water system must maintain a record of each volunteer operator. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

H.B. 1224 (Lucio/Perry) - Texas Water Development Board: allows the Texas Water Development Board to approve the use of assets as a source of revenue or security, or both, for the payment of the principal of and interest on state revolving fund bonds. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1535 (Frullo/Fraser) - Non-ERCOT Electric Rates: modifies the way in which electric rates are determined through the Public Utility Commission rate-setting process for electric utilities that operate outside of the Energy Reliability Council of Texas grid. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1662 (Sheets/Perry) - Municipal Drainage Service Charges: allows a city to exempt property used for cemetery purposes from drainage charges if the cemetery is closed to new interments and does not accept new burials. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1665 (Bonnen, D./Kolkhorst) - Water Level Fluctuations: requires a seller of residential or commercial real property adjoining an impoundment of water, including a reservoir or lake, to provide the purchaser with written notice that the water levels fluctuate. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

H.B. 1794 (Geren/Hancock) - Environmental Enforcement: provides that, in relation to an environmental enforcement action under the Texas Water Code: (1) the maximum amount of the civil penalty sought by a city or county is $4.3 million, and that: (a) the first $4.3 million of the amount recovered shall be divided equally between the state and the city or county; and (b) any amount recovered in excess of $4.3 million shall be awarded to the state; (2) in determining the amount of an administrative penalty sought by a city or county, the trier of fact (a judge or jury) shall consider factors that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality must consider under current law; and (3) a suit for a civil penalty that is brought by a city or county must be brought not later than the fifth anniversary of the earlier of the date the person who committed the violation: (a) notifies the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in writing of the violation; or (b) receives a notice of enforcement from the commission with respect to the alleged violation. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

H.B. 1902 (Howard/Zaffirni) - Graywater:allows the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to adopt and implement minimum standards for additional domestic uses and reuses of graywater. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1919 (Phillips/Estes) - Invasive Species:provides that a municipally owned utility is not required to obtain a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the following water transfers: (1) through a water supply system; (2) from a water body with no known exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish or shellfish to a water body with no known exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish or shellfish; (3) directly to a water treatment facility; (4) treated prior to the transfer into a water body; and (5) from a reservoir or through a dam to address flood control or to meet water supply requirements or environmental flow purposes. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2031 (Lucio/Hinojosa) - Marine Seawater Desalination: provides that: (1) each regional water planning group shall indicate in their regional water plan opportunities for, and the benefits of, developing large-scale desalination facilities for marine seawater that serve local or regional entities; (2) a person must obtain a permit to divert and use state water that consists of marine seawater if: (a) the point of diversion is located less than three miles seaward of any points located on the coast, or (b) the seawater contains a total dissolved solids concentration based on a yearly average of samples taken monthly at the water sources of less than 20,000 milligrams per liter; (3) a person may use the bed and banks of any flowing natural stream to convey marine seawater that has been treated; (4) the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) must provide by rule an expedited procedure for acting on an application for a permit to discharge treated marine seawater; and (5) until the TCEQ adopts rules regarding discharge waste, a person must consult the Parks and Wildlife Department and the General Land Office regarding the point at which the facility may discharge waste resulting from the desalination of marine seawater. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2179 (Lucio/Perry) - Groundwater Conservation District Permitting:provides that: (1) a hearing on a permit or permit amendment issued by a groundwater conservation district must be a public hearing; (2) an administrative law judge who conducts a contested case hearing shall consider applicable district rules in conducting the hearing; and (3) a groundwater conservation district board may change a finding of fact or conclusion of law made by the administrative law judge only if the board determines: (a) that the administrative law judge did not properly apply or interpret applicable law, (b) that a prior administrative decisions on which the judge relied is incorrect, or (c) that a technical error in a finding of fact should be changed. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2767 (Keffer/Perry) - Groundwater Conservation Districts:provides that: (1) directors of groundwater conservation districts are subject to chapter 176 of the Local Government Code (conflicts disclosure); (2) only the district, the permit applicant, and parties to a contested case hearing may participate in an appeal of a decision on the application that was the subject of that contested case hearing; (3) an affected person may file a petition requesting an inquiry of a groundwater conservation district with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. (Effective immediately.) 

H.B. 2788 (Springer/Perry) - Conservation Measures:allows a retail public utility, which includes a municipally owned utility, to require the operator of a correctional facility that receives water or sewer service from the utility to comply with water conservation measures adopted by the utility. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 3187 (Keffer/Lucio) - Property Assessed Clean Energy Act: provides that (1) establishing a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to decrease water or energy consumption or demand is a governmental function; (2) a city may designate an authorized representative to enter into contracts to implement a water or energy consumption improvements assessment program; and (3) members of a city council and employees of the city who enter into a contract with a local government to provide administrative services for a program are not personally liable as a result of exercising any right or responsibilities related to the PACE program. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 4097 (Hunter/Kolkhorst) - Seawater Desalination:provides that: (1) the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) must study whether existing transmission and distribution planning processes are sufficient to provide adequate infrastructure for seawater desalination projects and make recommendations for statutory changes to ensure adequate infrastructure is developed; (2) the TCEQ and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) shall study the potential for seawater desalination projects to participate in existing demand response opportunities in the ERCOT market; (3) the TCEQ may issue a permit to authorize diversion of water from the Gulf of Mexico for desalination and use for industrial purposes; (4) a person may not begin construction of a facility for the diversion of marine seawater without obtaining a permit until the person has provided data to the TCEQ based on analysis of samples from the water source over a period of at least a year; and (5) the TCEQ may issue a permit for the discharge of water treatment residuals from the desalination of seawater into the Gulf of Mexico. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 4112 (Burns/Perry) - Groundwater: provides that: (1) a landowner has any groundwater ownership right recognized under common law; and (2) groundwater ownership and rights do not entitle a landowner to the right to capture a specific amount of groundwater below the surface of the landowner’s land. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 394 (Perry/P. King) - Supplemental Environmental Projects:provides that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shall approve a supplemental environmental project if a local government: (1) has not previously committed a violation at the same site with the same underlying cause in the preceding five years; and (2) did not agree, before the date that the commission initiated enforcement action, to perform the project. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 551 (Seliger/Keffer) - Water Conservation Advisory Council:requires the Water Conservation Advisory Council to make recommendations for legislation to advance water conservation in Texas in its annual report to the legislature. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

S.B. 709 (Fraser/Morrison) - Contested Case Hearings:provides that: (1) an applicant’s filing with the administrative law judge of a draft permit, the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) preliminary decision, and any other supporting documentation in the administrative record establishes a prima facie presumption that the permit application meets all state and federal legal and technical requirements and the permit would be protective of the public’s health and physical property and the environment; (2) the burden shifts to the protesting party to the contested case hearing to rebut the established presumption by presenting evidence that the draft permit violates specific state or federal legal or technical requirements; (3) the TCEQ may not find that a group or association is an affected person unless the group or association identifies a member of the group or association who would be an affected person in the person’s own right; and (4) the TCEQ must provide notice to the state senator and state representative of the area in which a permit for a facility is to be issued. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

S.B. 774 (Fraser/Thompson) - Electric Utility Rates: requires the Public Utility Commission to: (1) conduct a study and make a report to the legislature not later than January 15, 2019, analyzing alternative rate making mechanisms adopted by other states; (2) make recommendations regarding appropriate reforms to the rate making process in this state; and (3) include in the report an analysis that demonstrates how the commission’s recommended reforms would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the oversight of electric utilities and ensure that electric rates are just and reasonable. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

S.B. 776 (Fraser/Kacal) - MOU Electric Transmission: this bill generally relate to the Texas Municipal Power Agency. However, one provision applies generally to all municipally owned electric utilities. It provides that, with certain exceptions, a municipally owned electric utility may not directly or indirectly construct, install, or extend a transmission facility outside of the boundaries of the city that owns the utility, unless the utility obtains a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Public Utility Commission. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

S.B. 912 (Eltife/Crownover) - Wastewater Facilities: exempts an individual from notifying the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of an accidental discharge or spill of treated or untreated domestic wastewater that: (1) occurs at a wastewater treatment or collection facility owned or operated by a local government; (2) has a volume of 1,000 gallons or less; (3) is not associated with another simultaneous accidental discharge or spill; (4) is controlled or removed before the accidental discharge or spill enters water in the state or adversely affects a source of drinking water; (5) will not endanger human health or safety or the environment; and (6) is not otherwise subject to local regulatory control and reporting requirements; and requires an individual to submit to TCEQ at least once a month a summary of accidental discharges that occurred during the previous month (Effective September 1, 2015.)

S.B. 933 (Fraser/Cook) - Electric Transmission Facilities: provides: (1) that a person, including an investor owned electric utility or a municipally owned utility, may not interconnect a facility to the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) transmission grid that enables additional power to be imported into or exported out of the ERCOT power grid unless the person obtains a certificate from the Public Utility Commission stating that public convenience and necessity requires or will require the interconnection; and (2) for procedures and deadlines to implement the bill’s requirements. (Effective September 1, 2015.)

S.B. 991 (Rodriguez/Larson) - Desalination: requires the General Land Office to conduct a study regarding the use of wind or solar power to desalinate brackish groundwater on real property owned by the state. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 1148 (Watson/Geren) - Municipally Owned Utilities:provides: (1) that a municipally owned water and sewer utility must disclose the number of ratepayers who reside outside the city limits to any person that requests the information; (2) that a municipally owned utility must provide a list of the names and addresses of the ratepayers who reside outside the city limits to any person that requests the information, unless the ratepayer has requested that this information remain confidential; (3) that the State Office of Administrative Hearings, instead of the Public Utility Commission, may give notice of a hearing to a city; and (4) procedures for obtaining an emergency order. (Effective September 1, 2015.)


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