On September 12, 2019, federal regulators announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Army formally finalized a regulatory change that repeals the 2015 rule defining the "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. The following statement can be attributed to Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO), on this updated federal rule that will provide greater regulatory certainty to the regulated community:
The U.S. oil and gas industry has a significant interest in the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. All segments of the oil and natural gas industry are subject to extensive water permitting and regulatory requirements at both the state and federal levels for activities such as drilling and producing from oil and natural gas wells, refining crude oil, and transporting crude oil or refined product.
The EPA and the Army Corps jointly promulgated the Clean Water Rule (CWR) and unveiled it in May 2015, but in October of that year the Sixth District Court issued a stay and blocked it from being implemented. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in February 2017 instructing the two federal agencies to review the Clean Water Act. EPA indicated it would repeal, rather that modify, the U.S. government's definition of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) last July. The Trump Administration in mid-September unveiled a narrowed definition of which bodies of water deserve protection under the federal Clean Water Act. This proposed rule completes the process to review and revise the CWR.
Protecting water resources is very important to independent producers, but the overly-broad power grab under the previous administration would have presented very negative consequences for the oil and natural gas industry. WOTUS was an effort by the Obama Administration to expand the federal government’s authority over land and water use across the nation, resulting in the need to acquire significantly more government permits and fulfill bureaucratic regulatory requirements.
The Texas oil and natural gas sector looks forward to a new water rule that protects U.S. waters without placing an inordinate burden on numerous industries that drive the U.S. economy.