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Shale & Fracking Tracker


Return to U.S. State Resources

Texas is home to one of the most established natural gas shale plays, the Barnett Shale, as well as the Eagle Ford and Haynesville/Bossier shale plays.1 The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that as of 2014, the Barnett shale contained 24.3 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of proved reserves, with 23.7 tcf in the Eagle Ford shale and 16.6 tcf in the Haynesville shale.2 In 2014, Texas accounted for 29 percent of U.S. marketed natural gas production, making it the leading natural gas producer among the states.3

New Texas Map

Statutory and Regulatory Framework

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) primarily regulates oil and natural gas production in the state,4 while the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates certain additional activities, such as air emissions and water rights.5

The RRC’s rules are generally applicable to both conventional and unconventional oil and gas production. These rules address, among other things, permits to drill;6 water protection7 disposal wells;8 well construction, operation, and completion;9 well spacing;10 reporting obligations;11 hazardous waste management;12 fluid injection.13 Additionally, the RRC has adopted a chemical disclosure rule specifically applicable to hydraulic fracturing operations.14

Pursuant to TCEQ regulations, upstream oil and gas operations typically require air emissions permits.15 TCEQ has adopted a specific air permit-by-rule for certain new oil- and gas-producing projects which start construction after April 1, 2011, in the fifteen counties over the Barnett Shale;16 other upstream oil and gas operations may be eligible for authorization under an air quality standard permit for oil and gas facilities17 or a new source review permit.18
Texas allows the use of reclaimed water from municipal or certain industrial sources to be used in hydraulic fracturing operations.19 Following such use, the water must be disposed of consistent with the requirements governing deep well injection disposal wells.20 In 2014,21 the RRC adopted rules requiring companies seeking permits for disposal wells to provide seismic activity data in permit applications.22 Moreover, the new rules allow the RRC to modify, suspend, or terminate permits on grounds that a disposal well is likely to be, or determined to be, causing seismic activity,23 among other things. 

Recent News and Developments

Local Control Issues

In November of 2014, the City of Denton, Texas adopted a ban on hydraulic fracturing within city limits.24 However, the city ordinance was rendered unenforceable, and eventually repealed, after the Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 40 into law in 2015, establishing exclusive state jurisdiction over oil and gas operations and expressly preempting municipal authority in this area.25 The bill allows municipalities to continue regulating certain aboveground activities related to oil and gas operations such as fire and emergency response, traffic, lights, noise, and setback requirements.26 Municipal regulation of aboveground activity must be “commercially reasonable” and may not act to effectively prohibit oil and gas operations.27 The bill also provides a safe harbor for ordinances that have been in effect for at least five years and have allowed oil and gas operations to continue during that period.28 

Texas Oilfield Relief Initiative

On August 9, 2016, Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick announced details of her Texas Oilfield Relief Initiative.29 The initiative aims to reduce the regulatory administrative burden on industry.30 Specifically, Commissioner Craddick’s initiative includes, among other things, the following items for implementation:

Identifying agency reports, forms, and filings that can be streamlined or eliminated, saving operating costs without impacting public or environmental safety;

  • Amending production requirements for marginal and stripper wells to reduce regulatory administrative burdens; 
  • Identifying areas where usable quality water protection depth is constant in order to streamline regulatory requirements in those areas; 
  • Simplifying the complete duplication of a drilling permit application with a sworn statement of no changes to the original application; and
  • Implementing a revised internal inspection priority system so RRC inspectors prioritize drilling rig inspections and hydraulic fracture treatments in sensitive areas, like cities or wetlands, without affecting other inspections.31

Last updated September 2016.

See Geography: Maps: Oil and Gas Related Exploration, Resources, and Production: Shale Gas and Oil Play, Lower 48 States, U.S. ENERGY INFO. ADMIN. [“USEIA”] (June 30, 2016), https://www.eia.gov/maps/images/shale_gas_lower48.pdf.

See USEIA, U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves, 2014, available at http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/crudeoilreserves/pdf/usreserves.pdf

See USEIA, Texas State Energy Profile, https://www.eia.gov/state/print.cfm?sid=TX

See Railroad Commission of Texas website, Oil & Gas, http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/oil-gas/

See Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website, Oil and Gas Activities, https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assistance/industry/oil-and-gas/oilgas.html.

6 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.5.

7 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.8.

8 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.9.

9 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.13.

10 16 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 3.38–.39.

11 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.16, 3.53.

12 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.98.

13 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.46.

14 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.29.

15 See TEX. COMM’N ON ENVTL. QUALITY, COMMON ENVIRONMENTAL REQUIREMENTS FOR REGULATED OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS, TCEQ REGULATORY GUIDANCE RG-482 1 (Feb. 2013) [“TCEQ Regulatory Guidance”], http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/publications/rg/rg-482.html/at_download/file.

16 30 Tex. Admin. Code § 106.352.

17 See Air Quality Standard Permit for Oil and Gas handling and Production Facilities, effective November 8, 2012, http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/assets/public/permitting/air/Announcements/oilgas-sp.pdf.

18 See TCEQ Regulatory Guidance at 1.

19 See TCEQ Regulatory Guidance at 4; see also 30 Tex. Admin. Code § 210.

20 See TCEQ Regulatory Guidance at 4; see also 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.9.

21 See Memorandum from Cristina Self, RR. Comm’n of Tex. Office of Gen. Counsel, to Texas Railroad Commissioners, Adoption of Amendments to 16 Tex. Admin. Code §3.9, relating to Disposal Wells and §3.46, relating to Fluid Injection into Productive Reservoirs; Oil & Gas Docket No. 20-0290951 (Oct. 21, 2014), http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/media/24613/adopt-amend-3-9and3-46-seismic-activity-102814-sig.pdf.

22 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.9(3)(B)

23 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 3.9(6)(A)(vi)

24 See The Texas Tribune, Dissecting Denton: How a Texas City Banned Fracking, by Jim Malewitz, December 15, 2014, https://www.texastribune.org/2014/12/15/dissecting-denton-how-texas-city-baned-fracking/.

25 See Jim Malewitz, With HB 40 Signed, Fracking to Resume in Denton, TEX. TRIB., May 22, 2015, https://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/22/despite-ban-fracking-resume-denton/.

26 See Act of May 18, 2015, 84th Leg. R.S., ch. 30, § 2, Tex. Gen. Laws 971, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/sessionLaws/84-0/HB_40_CH_30.pdf; also available at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/pdf/HB00040F.pdf#navpanes=0.

27 Id.

28 Id.

29 Press Release, Texas Railroad Commission, Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick Announces Texas Oilfield Relief Initiative (Aug. 9, 2016), available at http://www.rrc.texas.gov/all-news/080916a/

30 Id.

31 Id.  

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